A judge is expected to rule next month on a challenge to Wisconsin’s photo ID law. The decision would come weeks before this fall’s primary elections. Yet, as WUWM’s Ann-Elise Henzl reports, it is unlikely the state’s policy will be set in stone, by the time voters go to the polls.
Groups have filed four lawsuits seeking to overturn Wisconsin’s new photo ID requirement. Two are in state court. Until they’re resolved, the mandate that voters present an acceptable identification card is on hold. One challenge is before a court of appeals, with no decision date in sight. The ruling expected in July is in Dane County Circuit Court. The decision will most certainly be appealed, according to Kevin Kennedy, director of the Government Accountability Board. “Realistically, the courts are probably not going to be acting this summer. I think for August we’re just simply trying to say, ‘don’t expect it, but – again – be prepared,’” Kennedy says.
The fall primary is Aug. 14. A few weeks later, a trial will begin on two federal challenges to photo ID. They have been combined into one case. Kennedy says there is a chance at least one of the lawsuits will make its way to the Supreme Court. In other words, it could be awhile before the fate of photo ID is certain. Meanwhile, other provisions of the new voter ID law – such as its 28-day residency requirement – remain in effect.
Voter advocacy groups are working to educate eligible voters, and get IDs into the hands of those who might need them. As people signed in at a recent voter forum at UW-Milwaukee, they encountered a table full of information. Kenneth Brown was in the audience. He’s with the Wisconsin League of Young Voters Education Fund. “We’re gearing up for the fall. We make sure we’re at every event, every town hall meeting – just making our presence known,” Brown says. Brown believes some voters without photo IDs have stayed home on election days, assuming they’re not in compliance. His group spreads the word about up-to-date requirements, and the status of the legal challenges. The ACLU of Wisconsin is doing the same. “There is some confusion in the community about whether ID is or is not required, especially among people who don’t sort of live and breathe and think about this stuff all the time,” says Karyn Rotker, an attorney with the ACLU. It is among the groups suing in federal court.