A Dane County judge struck down the state’s new voter ID law on Monday – the second judge in a week to block the requirement that voters show photo identification at the polls. “A government that undermines the very foundation of its existence – the people’s inherent, pre-constitutional right to vote – imperils its legitimacy as a government by the people, for the people, and especially of the people,” Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess wrote. “It sows the seeds for its own demise as a democratic institution. This is precisely what 2011 Wisconsin Act 23 does with its photo ID mandates.” Niess’ eight-page ruling goes further than the one issued by another judge last week because it permanently invalidates the law for violating the state constitution. Tuesday’s order by Dane County Judge David Flanagan halted the law for the April 3 presidential primary and local elections, but not beyond that. Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen promised to quickly appeal the decision.
The latest order may make it harder for the state to put the voter ID law into effect before the April 3 election because it would have to win two appeals in less than four weeks. Kevin Kennedy, director of the state Government Accountability Board, said his election agency is telling local clerks to keep training to implement the law so they’re prepared to do so if it’s suddenly restored. “We’ll just live with what is there,” Kennedy said.
Whether Wisconsin’s photo ID law will stand is widely considered likely to be decided by a higher court – a point the judge in the case made from the bench during a Friday hearing. There are four lawsuits pending against the law. The rulings come just weeks before recall elections for four Republican state senators. Recall elections are also likely for Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, but they have not yet been ordered. Niess’ decision came the same day the U.S. Department of Justice blocked Texas’ voter ID law, which the agency said would disproportionately affect Hispanic voters because they are less likely to have appropriate identification.