A federal appeals court on Friday seemed to reach a limited compromise in the controversy over Wisconsin’s voter identification law, which has been in the crosshairs of multiple lawsuits and appeals for years. With one judge recused, the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit consolidated the disputes and issued an order that kept the law on the books, but appeared to give voting rights advocates a small consolation prize ahead of the November election. The court explicitly rejected a softening device ― like one ordered by a federal judge this month in Texas ― that would allow voters lacking the required voter ID card to simply sign an affidavit attesting to their identity before they cast a ballot. Instead, the court accepted assurances from the state of Wisconsin that its Division of Motor Vehicles would “mail automatically a free photo ID to anyone who comes to DMV one time and initiates the free ID process.”
“No one must present documents, that, for some, have proved challenging to acquire; no one must show a birth certificate, proof of citizenship, and the like,” the court noted, quoting the state from a prior legal filing.
The 7th Circuit stressed that mere “initiation” of this process ― showing up at the DMV, regardless of what documentation the prospective voter has ― was enough for a voter to receive a voting credential at no cost.