A new Wisconsin photo identification law unconstitutionally burdens the rights of senior citizens, minorities and other voters, the American Civil Liberties Union claimed in a federal lawsuit.
The rights group filed the lawsuit today at the U.S. courthouse in Milwaukee, naming as defendants Governor Scott Walker and members of the state’s Government Accountability Board, which oversees elections, ethics and campaign finance.
The new law requires a photo ID such as a driver’s license or other state-issued identification if voters want to participate in the state’s Feb. 21 primary election. The ACLU seeks a court order invalidating the measure.
“Allowing only certain types of photo ID imposes a severe burden on the right to vote,” violating U.S. constitutional guarantees of equal protection under the law, the ACLU said. It is tantamount to a poll tax, the ACLU said in a statement.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 17 Wisconsin residents including, it said, 84-year-old Ruthelle Frank of Brokaw, who doesn’t have a birth certificate; Carl Ellis, a 52-year-old living in a Milwaukee homeless shelter whose U.S. Army veteran’s photo identification doesn’t qualify under the law; and Justin Luft, 20, a Milwaukee resident who, while eligible to vote, cannot get a state ID because he doesn’t yet have a Social Security card.
Reid Magney, a spokesman for the Government Accountability Board, declined to comment on the filing.
Cullen Werwie, a spokesman for the governor, defended as lawful the legislation Walker signed on May 25.
“The common sense election reforms signed into law this year by Governor Walker are constitutional,” Werwie said in an e-mailed statement. “Requiring photo identification to vote helps ensure the integrity of our elections.”
At least 15 other states have enacted similar legislation, he said.
The ACLU said its Wisconsin lawsuit is the “only active federal challenge” to a state voter identification law.
An earlier challenge to the state’s voter ID law was filed in May by pro se litigant Adib Timbuktu, naming Walker as the sole defendant. No action has been taken in that case since August, when attorneys for the governor filed papers asking U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman to dismiss it.
The case is Frank v. Walker, 11cv1128, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Wisconsin (Milwaukee). The earlier case is Timbuktu v. Walker, 11cv510, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Wisconsin (Milwaukee).