Appeals court lifts injunction in voter ID case

Wisconsin may enforce photo ID requirement in this November's elections

A federal appeals court has reinstated Wisconsin’s voter photo identification law.

U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman struck the law down as unconstitutional in April, saying it unfairly burdens poor and minority voters who may lack such identification. Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen asked the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago to overturn that ruling.

The 7th Circuit issued a ruling late Friday afternoon lifting Adelman’s stay and allowing the law to go into effect before the November elections.

“The State of Wisconsin may, if it wishes (and if it is appropriate under rules of state law), enforce the photo ID requirement in this November’s elections,” the court said in a one-page decision issued Friday afternoon, just more than five hours after arguments were completed.

State attorneys asked a three-judge 7th Circuit panel during oral arguments on Friday to immediately reinstate the law, calling it “common sense.”

During arguments judges focused on a change made this week by the Walker administration and approved Friday afternoon that would ease access to free identification for voters, and provide a waiver process for those who could not afford birth certificates to get an ID.  In their decision, they say those recent change “reduces the likelihood of irreparable injury, and it also changes the balance of equities” in the case.

Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin and League of United Latin American Citizens argued those changes aren’t guaranteed to work and say putting Voter ID in place this close to an election could be “impossible.”

“I cannot believe that a court would effectively change the status quo this close to an election when the chief elections officer of the state has said do this sooner,” Larry Dupuis, with the ACLU of Wisconsin said Friday following court arguments.  “It would be a disaster on the ground if it were to happen.”

In a statement issued late Friday, executive director of the Government Accountability Board Kevin Kennedy said, “We are taking every step to fully implement the voter photo ID law for the November General Election. We are now focused on communicating with local election officials and voters, and will have more information about the details next week.”

The court said the appeal itself remains “under advisement” and they will issue an opinion in “due course.”

A statement released Friday by Chris Ahmuty, ACLU of Wisconsin executive director said, “We are very disappointed in the irresponsible decision to lift the injunction against voter ID, which will cause chaos and disruption for voters and elections workers for the November election.” The ACLU said it will continue to review and monitor the decision.

Walker and Van Hollen both called the ruling a win in separate statements Friday afternoon. Walker said the “voter ID is a common sense reform that protects the integrity of our voting process.”

Van Hollen said he and his staff will work with the GAB to institute the ID requirement. “This ruling vindicates the law and our efforts to ensure the policy of this state will be in effect for November’s election,” Van Hollen said.