Friday’s U.S. court ruling that breathed new life into Wisconsin’s voter ID law is a “recipe for chaos” that will cause “extraordinary disenfranchisement” this fall, voting rights advocates are warning as they push for a rehearing of the case. “If this law is not stopped now from being implemented in November, it will cause irreparable harm to the 300,000 plus voters who lack ID,” John Ulin, a lawyer for Arnold and Porter who represents plaintiffs in the case, told reporters Wednesday. Late Tuesday, challengers to the law filed court documents asking that the full 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals take a second look at Friday’s ruling reinstating the law. That ruling, the brief argues, “imposes a radical, last-minute change to procedures for conducting an election that is already underway.” Friday’s ruling was made by a three-judge panel of the court, all of whom were appointed by Republicans. The strict GOP-backed voter ID law had been on hold since not long after being passed in 2012, and was a struck down in April by a federal district court judge, who ruled that it violated the Voting Rights Act’s ban on racial discrimination in voting.
The fate of the law could be a factor in Wisconsin’s closely fought governor’s race this fall. Republican Gov. Scott Walker, a staunch supporter of the ID law, faces a challenge from Democrat Mary Burke. If the law makes it harder for minorities to vote, Walker could benefit. Emails released last week as part of a state investigation show Walker offered assistance to a conservative activist who, ahead of the 2010 election, paid for billboards in black Milwaukee neighborhoods warning “voter fraud is a felony.”
On a call with reporters Wednesday, lawyers for the plaintiffs laid out a forceful and impassioned case for why the ID law should be blocked before November.
Ulin put the number of affected voters at around 370,000 — 300,000 registered voters who lack ID, plus around 70,000 currently unregistered who will try to register on election day. “Is it possible that some of those voters will obtain an ID before election day on Nov 4?” he asked. “Sure, that’s possible. Is it likely that anywhere near 370,000 IDs are going to be issued? That’s virtually impossible.”
As the district court found, those voters without ID skew non-white. Blacks are 1.4 times as likely as white to be affected, and Latinos are 2.3 times as likely as whites.