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Wisconsin Top Court Declines to Hear Voter-ID Ruling Appeals

Wisconsin’s Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal of a lower-court judge’s ruling last month that the state’s voter-identification requirement is unconstitutional.

In an accompanying order issued today, the state’s top court also declined to review another judge’s order that temporarily blocked enforcement of the requirement that voters appear at their polling places bearing a government-issued photo identification.

Dane County Circuit Court Judge Richard G. Niess last month said the law burdened otherwise qualified voters with a statutory requirement not found in the state’s constitution. Days earlier, Dane County Judge David Flanagan issued the temporary injunction blocking enforcement.

State Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen appealed both rulings and asked the state’s intermediate-level appellate court to certify the issues directly to the Supreme Court for resolution.

“The decision in our case will go to the Court of Appeals, but that doesn’t mean that it will never be heard by the Supreme Court,” said Susan Crawford, an attorney for the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin Education Network Inc., which won Niess’s finding of unconstitutionality. “It just means they won’t hear it now.”

‘Surprised and Disappointed’

“We are surprised and disappointed,” said Dana Brueck, a spokeswoman for Van Hollen. “We continue to believe that prompt action is required by an appellate court, and we’ll continue to pursue this matter in the Court of Appeals.”

Governor Scott Walker, the first-term Republican who signed the voter ID measure into law last year, faces a June 5 recall election. A primary to determine his opponent will be held on May 8.

“We have argued strenuously that the law be enjoined pending the appeal,” Crawford said. “That’s the only way to ensure the protection of the rights of voters.”

Trial of the case before Flanagan, which was filed by the Milwaukee chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, started today in Madison, the state capital and Dane County seat.

The cases are League of Women Voters of Wisconsin Education Network v. Walker, 2011cv4669, and Milwaukee Branch of the NAACP v. Walker, 2011cv5492, Dane County, Wisconsin, Circuit Court (Madison).

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