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U.S. Supreme Court blocks Wis. voter ID law

U.S. Supreme Court blocks Wis. voter ID law

MADISON, Wis. - The U.S. Supreme Court has blocked Wisconsin from implementing a law requiring voters to present photo IDs.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday declared the law constitutional.

The American Civil Liberties Union followed that up the next day with an emergency request to the Supreme Court asking it to block the ruling ahead of the November election.

On Thursday night the nation's highest court did so, vacating the appeals court ruling pending further proceedings. Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented from the decision.

"There is a colorable basis for the Court's decision due to the proximity of the upcoming general election. It is particularly troubling that absentee ballots have been sent out without any notation that proof of photo identification must be submitted," the dissenting opinion said.

The majority decision did not give an exact reason to vacate the appeals court ruling. The decision also does not indicate whether the court plans to take the appeal of the case and rule on the law's constitutionality.

"I believe the voter ID law is constitutional and nothing in the Court's order suggests otherwise," Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said in a statement. "Instead, the Court may have been concerned that even with the extraordinary efforts of the clerks, absentee ballots that were distributed before the 7th Circuit declared the law valid might not be counted."

"Today's order puts the brakes on the last-minute disruption and voter chaos created by this law going into effect so close to the election. It will help safeguard the vote for thousands of Wisconsinites as this case makes its way through the courts," Larry Dupuis, legal director of the ACLU of Wisconsin, said in a statement.

"The U.S. Supreme Court is correct in ruling that the ill-advised, voter suppressing photo ID law not be implemented weeks before Election Day," Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, said in a statement. "Any other decision would have immediately disenfranchised voters in direct conflict with our constitution. While Scott Walker wanted to confuse voters and rig the electorate in his favor, the Supreme Court has sided with the people."

Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell told News 3 he believes the decision will increase the number of people who vote. "One in five regular voters didn't know that they were going to need their ID to vote on Election Day," he said. "We were trying to address that, the GAB was trying to address that but now that problem wont exist in November."

"We look forward to continuing to inform Wisconsin voters about the clear choice in this year's governors race and ensuring that every eligible voter who wants to cast a ballot has the opportunity to do so. Regardless of your politics, we can all agree that the greater the level of participation in elections, the better it is for our state," Joe Zepecki, communications director for Burke for Wisconsin Communications, said in a statement.

A statement from Gov. Scott Walker's press secretary said the governor still believes voter ID is common sense reform. "While we understand the need for awareness about the law, we think it is important voter ID is implemented, so voters can have confidence in the electoral process, and we are confident the law will ultimately be upheld."

A spokesperson for the Government Accountability Board said it will release a statement Friday.

The voter photo identification law has been a political flashpoint since Republican legislators passed it in 2011. The law was in effect for the February 2012 primary, but subsequent legal challenges have kept it on hold.

"There is no way to undo the confusion that has existed as we've gone back and forth, but as long as this ruling stays in effect through November, at least it clarifies the situation for these last four weeks of the campaign," Marquette Law School professor Charles Franklin said.

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