Gov. Scott Walker and Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen are asking a federal court to reinstate Wisconsin’s voter ID law, but they have not finalized a plan to comply with a different court’s decision requiring the state to provide IDs to people who don’t have birth certificates. The state Supreme Court last month upheld the voter ID law, but the requirement to show photo ID at the polls remains blocked because a federal judge has found it violates the Voting Rights Act and U.S. Constitution. A new court filing suggests the voter ID law is unlikely to be put in place for the Nov. 4 election, when the GOP governor faces Democrat Mary Burke. She opposes the voter ID law. State officials say they need to know soon whether the law will be in effect so they can retrain poll workers and send out absentee ballots with the proper information. But the federal appeals court has said it won’t rule on reinstating the voter ID law until at least Sept. 12 — around the time absentee ballots will be mailed out. “I just can’t imagine that this could be implemented by the November election without creating a huge mess,” said Daniel Tokaji, an election law professor at Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University. “I think it would be imprudent to put it mildly to try to implement this law pursuant to an order issued after Sept. 12. I think that’s just asking for trouble.”
The overlapping state and federal litigation has led to conflicting results, with some courts finding the voter ID law acceptable and others deeming it unconstitutional. Supporters of voter ID have to succeed in all cases to put the law back in place.
While the state Supreme Court ruling was a victory for Walker and Van Hollen, the justices included a provision in their decision that would require the state to change the way it gives out ID cards for voting.
In its decision, the Wisconsin Supreme Court rewrote a state rule to say the Department of Transportation must provide free IDs to people even if they cannot produce a birth certificate or other government documents to get them. That’s because forcing people to have documents for voting that require government fees would amount to an illegal poll tax, the justices found.
So far, Van Hollen and officials in Walker’s Department of Transportation have not said how they would do that.