SCOTUS turns away challenge to Wisconsin voter ID law

March 23, 2015

The Supreme Court of the United States on Monday turned away a challenge to Wisconsin’s voter identification law, after having blocked the state from requiring photo IDs in November’s general election.

The justices’ action means the state is free to impose the voter ID requirement in future elections, including one just two weeks away. The decision is further evidence that the court put the law on hold last year only because the election was close at hand and absentee ballots already had been mailed with no notification of the need to present photo IDs.

The court did not comment on its order.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the order means the voter ID requirement will be in effect for the April 7 election. Early in-person absentee voting began on Monday and, similar to last year when the law was blocked, absentee ballots have already been mailed with notification that photo IDs were required.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed an emergency motion with the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago asking that the law remain blocked through the upcoming election because there isn’t enough time to implement it before then.

Having it take effect now “would cause all kind of confusion,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights project.

State elections officials were meeting Monday to discuss the issue. A spokeswoman for Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel had no immediate comment.

Requiring photo IDs now, after some voters have already cast absentee ballots in person, “would not be good,” said Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell.

“Never make changes to election law two weeks out from an election,” he said.

A state Supreme Court justice will be elected in the spring election. Voters will also decide whether to amend the Wisconsin Constitution to change how the chief justice of the state Supreme Court is decided. There are also dozens of local races on the ballot.

Spokesmen for the campaigns of those running for the Supreme Court did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment on whether they believed the requirement should be put into place for the election.

Wisconsin was one of four states in which a dispute over voting rules reached the Supreme Court last fall. The other states were North Carolina, Ohio and Texas. Of the four states, only Wisconsin’s new rules were blocked.

Wisconsin’s photo ID law has been a political flashpoint since Republican legislators passed it in 2011 and Gov. Scott Walker signed it into law. The GOP argues the mandate is a common sense step toward reducing election fraud. Democrats maintain no widespread fraud exists and that the law is really an attempt to keep Democratic constituents who may lack ID, such as the poor, minorities and the elderly, from voting.

The law was in effect for the February 2012 primary but subsequent legal challenges put it on hold and it hasn’t been in place for any election since.

The ACLU and allied groups persuaded a federal judge in Milwaukee to declare the law unconstitutional last year. But the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago later ruled that the law did not violate the Constitution.

The Supreme Court refused to disturb that ruling on Monday.



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