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Wisconsin appeals court: Voter photo ID constitutional

A Wisconsin law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls is constitutional, a state appeals court ruled Thursday.

The 4th District Court of Appeals decision stems from a lawsuit filed by the League of Women Voters to challenge the mandate. The league argued that the law violates the Wisconsin Constitution's explicit language on every person's right to vote. Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess sided with the league in March 2012, ruling the requirement would disenfranchise voters who lack the resources to obtain photo identification.

The appeals court reversed his decision, concluding the league failed to show the mandate amounts to an additional qualification to vote and failed to show the law is unconstitutional on its face.

The league's attorney, Lester Pines, had no immediate comment on the decision.

Republican lawmakers passed voter photo ID requirements two years ago, saying the move was needed to combat election fraud. The league wasn't the only group that challenged the law. The immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera and the Milwaukee branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People also filed a lawsuit in Dane County Circuit Court, winning a permanent injunction blocking it. That injunction still stands, although the state Justice Department has asked the 2nd District Court of Appeals to review the case.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the League of United Latin American Citizens have filed separate lawsuits challenging the law in federal court. Those suits are still pending.

Dana Brueck, a spokeswoman for the state Justice Department, which brought the appeal, praised Thursday's ruling.

"From the start, we have defended the constitutionality of Wisconsin's voter ID law. While today's decision is an important step toward full vindication of the law, we recognize that other challenges are still pending that address different issues. We will continue to defend the law and look forward to favorable decisions in those other cases as well," she said.

One of the chief authors of the voter ID law, Rep. Jeff Stone, R-Greendale, began circulating a new bill last week that would let poor people opt out. That bill is aimed at allaying concerns that requirements in the original bill are too burdensome.

The law requires voters to show either a state-issued ID card, valid driver's license, U.S. passport, a student ID that expires within two years or a military ID.