Wisconsin election officials were scrambling on Sept. 15 to deal with a federal appeals court’s ruling reinstating the requirement that voters show photo identification when casting ballots. The law had been on hold, after being in effect only for the low-turnout February 2012 primary, following a series of court orders blocking it. But a three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, just hours after hearing oral arguments, said late on Sept. 12 that the state could proceed with implementing the law while it weighs the merits of the case. The decision came after a federal judge’ ruling in April struck down the law as an unconstitutional burden on poor and minority voters who may lack the required identification. The biggest immediate issue is what to do about more than 11,800 absentee ballots that have already been requested, and perhaps returned, without the voter showing the required identification, Government Accountability Board spokesman Reid Magney said Monday. The law requires people to submit photocopies of their IDs when requesting absentee ballots by mail, something that those who made their requests before Friday’s ruling didn’t have to do.
In Milwaukee, the state’s largest city, about 8,000 absentee ballots were requested but have not yet been mailed to voters, said Neil Albrecht, who’s in charge of elections there. Under the law, they have to be sent by Thursday, he said.
“We’re all in a holding pattern right now waiting for clarification,” Albrecht said.
The story is much the same in Green Bay, where about 1,500 requested absentee ballots are sitting in the mailroom, said city clerk Kris Teske.
Magney said elections officials are discussing what steps to take and will release more information soon. One issue being discussed is what clerks need to do to communicate with voters with absentee ballots, Magney said.
The Government Accountability Board told clerks on Sept. 12 not to mail out any more absentee forms until it gets instructions about what forms to send so voters comply with the law.