Wisconsin’s Voter ID Law Suppresses Votes, Judge Is Told

A Wisconsin law requiring voters to present a government-issued photo ID before being allowed to cast their ballots suppresses votes, a lawyer challenging the measure told a U.S. judge at the close of a two-week trial.

The measure known as Act 23 was signed into law by Governor Scott Walker, a Republican, in 2011 and a state judge blocked its enforcement in March 2012. Lawyers for the state say it’s needed to detect and deter voter fraud.

John Ulin, an attorney for plaintiffs suing to overturn the law on constitutional grounds, today compared it to measures used to deter black voters before the civil rights reforms of the 1960s.

“Act 23 is a voter suppression law,” Ulin told U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman in Milwaukee.

He said the number of minority voters that would be deprived of their right if the law is allowed to take effect, “would likely fill Miller Park,” the 42,000-seat stadium occupied by Major League Baseball’s Milwaukee Brewers.

Voter Fraud

Assistant Wisconsin Attorney General Clayton Kawski countered that the case is about both the right to vote and the state’s right to prevent voter fraud.

“Picture IDs will deter voter impersonation fraud, if not prevent it,” he told Adelman today.

Kawski also said that of the 25 named plaintiffs in the case, 16 presented no evidence at trial that they were denied an ID. One other refused to get one. The rest were able to get IDs.

“Only three demonstrated that they lacked a valid ID,” the state’s lawyer said. He characterized those three cases as “bizarre examples” and said even those plaintiffs didn’t prove they could never get an ID, only that they had difficulty.

The case was tried before the judge without a jury. Adelman, who heard more than two hours of argument today, didn’t issue a ruling. He gave the parties a month to file post-trial arguments.

The case is Frank v. Walker, 11-cv-01128, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Wisconsin (Milwaukee).

To contact the reporters on this story: Andrew Harris in federal court in Chicago at aharris16@bloomberg.net; Marie Rohde in federal court in Milwaukee at fmarierohde@gmail.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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