Like many other states, Wisconsin has recently enacted a voter ID law. After winning both the state legislature and the governor’s office in 2010 (a wave year for Republicans), the Wisconsin GOP quickly acted to restrict voting. Governor Scott Walker quickly signed the bill, claiming it was about the integrity of our electoral process, saying “to me, something as important as a vote is important … whether its one case, 100 cases or 100,000 cases.” Voting rights groups, on the other hand, pointed out that in-person voter fraud (what the law claims to address) is exceedingly rare. They claimed that the real purpose of the law was to discourage voting among constituencies which tend to vote Democratic. ACLU Voting Rights Project Director Dale Ho has been at the forefront of the fight against Wisconsin’s law. Ho said that 300,00 or more Wisconsin voters lack the required ID, and that to allow them all to vote 6,000 IDs would have to be issued every day, a practical impossibility. The Advancement Project agreed that getting all the required IDs out would be “mathematically impossible.” While many states are in the midst of litigation over voter ID issues, the Wisconsin case is especially pertinent, since it involves a hotly contested gubernatorial race and could the ID rules in place could sway the election.
In an interesting course of litigation, the law was challenged by the ACLU, the Advancement Project, and the League of United Latin American Citizens of Wisconsin. District Court Judge Lynn Adelman struck the law down, saying it unconstitutionally burdens poor and minority citizens who may not have acceptable IDs.
Then the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the law, saying “the State of Wisconsin may, if it wishes … enforce the photo ID requirement in this November’s elections.” A three judge panel, all of whom were Republican appointees, heard the appeal. The decision does not require Wisconsin to implement the law, simply allows it to. However, the state seems intent on doing just that.
Kevin Kennedy, the state’s top election official confirmed that Wisconsin is “taking every step to fully implement the voter photo ID law for the November general election,” and said that his office was focused on communicating with localities and voters about the new requirements.