Appeals Court Upholds Voter ID

Wisconsin’s 4th District Court of Appeals issued a decision Thursday upholding the Voter ID law passed by Republicans in 2011.  The Madison-based panel of judges ruled the lawsuit filed by the League of Women Voters did not show the law violates the Wisconsin Constitution.

The Voter ID law was appealed in two different counties and in both cases the Judge ruled the law violated Article III of the Wisconsin Constitution, which guarantees the right to vote.  The groups opposed to the Voter ID law says it was designed by Republicans to make it more difficult to vote for college students, minorities and older people, all of whom are more likely to vote for Democrats.

Republicans have long said Voter ID is needed to prevent voter fraud, and a provision in the bill allows anyone without a valid state ID to get one for free from the Department of Motor Vehicles.  Governor Scott Walker and Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen have maintained the law would eventually be upheld, however it took a long time for that to happen.  After two different judges overturned the law in 2011, Republicans repeatedly asked the Supreme Court to bypass the appeals process, consolidate the cases and take the case directly.  They hoped that would lead to the fastest resolution.  But the Supreme Court rejected that request, stating they wanted the appeals to go through the normal process.

Judge Brian Blanchard (former Dane County District Attorney and Democrat) wrote the District IV decision and says the arguments by the League of Women Voters failed in part because there was no evidence supporting their claims that voters would be disenfranchised, “we reject the League’s additional, implied argument that the requirement is unconstitutional under the Article III right to suffrage because it imposes a restriction that is, on its face, so burdensome that it effectively denies potential voters their right to vote, and is therefore constitutionally “unreasonable.”  We express no opinion as to whether such an argument might have merit if supported by fact finding regarding the burdens imposed.  However, in this facial challenge in which the League does not rely on any fact finding or evidentiary material, the implied argument falls short.”

The Voter ID law has been on hold for nearly two years, and was not in place for any of the recalls or the presidential election last fall.  However, this ruling does not guarantee it will be in place for next year’s elections.

That’s because the second appeal is pending in the District II Court of Appeals.  Judge Brian Blanchard explains in the District IV decision the second case, brought by the NAACP, introduces some of the evidence the League’s case did not, “we note that a separate constitutional challenge to the photo identification requirement created in Act 23 is currently pending in a different district of this court before another panel of judges, in a case that has been litigated somewhat differently.  See Milwaukee Branch of the NAACP v. Scott Walker, No. 2012AP1652 (District II).  We highlight from the outset that the case before us involves a purely facial constitutional challenge based on Article III of the state constitution, and not an as-applied constitutional challenge based on any state or federal constitutional provision.”

Even Attorney General Van Hollen’s statement on the District IV decision acknowledges it’s not over. “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.”

And of course, this doesn’t rule out the loser in either case appealing to the Supreme Court.  So stay tuned.


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