Voter identification laws suffered setbacks in two states on Thursday, with the U.S. Supreme Court blocking Wisconsin from imposing its voter-identification measure during the midterm elections and a federal judge in Texas striking down that state’s ID law. The Supreme Court’s action in Wisconsin marked its third recent intervention in a high-profile election case, and the first before the high court in which advocates for minority voters prevailed. The justices in the two other cases allowed Ohio to cut back on early voting and cleared North Carolina to impose new, tighter voting rules. The high court in each case effectively put the brakes on lower court rulings that would have prompted late changes in election procedures in the run-up to the Nov. 4 election.
Meanwhile, a U.S. district judge in Texas said that state’s voter ID law amounted to an “unconstitutional poll tax,” an outcome the state said it would immediately appeal.
The Wisconsin litigation has been a roller-coaster ride. State Republicans enacted the law in 2011, but it was put on hold during early legal proceedings. A federal district judge in Milwaukee permanently blocked the law in April and the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago issued an opinion on Monday upholding the law. But the Supreme Court released a written order Thursday blocking the appeals court’s action while the challengers mount a full appeal to the high court.