Groups challenging Wisconsin’s voter ID law in filings asked a full appeals court to reverse a decision by three federal judges that allows the law to go into effect this fall. The submissions Tuesday and Wednesday by lawyers for the Advancement Project and the American Civil Liberties Union said Friday’s decision by a panel of judges from the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals was a “radical, last-minute change to procedures for conducting an election that is already underway.” “Supreme Court precedent and other circuits uniformly caution against such eleventh-hour changes to the election laws, even where those courts have approved such changes for future elections,” the attorneys wrote. In a terse order Wednesday, the court told Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen’s office to respond by Tuesday. Van Hollen declined to comment on the filings through his spokeswoman, Dana Brueck. The legal fight is coming to a head just seven weeks before the Nov. 4 election between Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Democrat Mary Burke. Walker signed the voter ID law in 2011; Burke opposes it.
The ID law was in place for a low-turnout primary in February 2012 but then blocked by a series of decisions by state and federal courts. The state Supreme Court ruled the voter ID law was constitutional this summer and the federal appeals panel on Friday determined the state was likely to prevail in its arguments and could implement the law. With Friday’s order, the state crossed the last barrier to putting the law into place, and election officials immediately said they would do that.
Those opposed to the law filed an emergency motion asking the full 10-member appeals court to step in. They are asking the court to block the law from going into effect this fall while the panel renders a final decision on whether the law violates the U.S. Constitution and federal Voting Rights Act.
For the opponents to succeed, a majority of the court would have to agree to take the case and then to halt the ID law. If the appeals court doesn’t stop the law, attorney John Ullin said, the plaintiffs may ask the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene in the case.