Wisconsin ID Ruling Withstands Appellate Rehearing Bid

Wisconsin avoided yet another challenge to its voter photo-ID law as a U.S. appeals court panel split evenly on a request to reconsider an order allowing the measure to be in force for elections on Nov. 4.

The 5-5 vote today by judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago let stand a Sept. 12 three-judge order allowing the state to keep the 2011 provision in place. It had been blocked by a trial judge who in April said it placed an unfair burden on poor and minority voters who can’t afford to pay for the documents needed to obtain a qualifying identification card.

The requirement was signed into law by Republican Governor Scott Walker, who is in a tight race for re-election with Democratic nominee, Mary Burke, a former Trek Bicycle Corp. executive.

Results of a Marquette University Law School poll released Sept. 17 showed the candidates tied at 46 percent in a survey of registered voters, with Walker leading 49 percent to 46 percent among those who said they’re likely to vote.

The law requiring voters to present a government-issued photo ID before being allowed to cast ballots was challenged in federal lawsuits by the American Civil Liberties Union, the League of United Latin American Citizens of Wisconsin and the Advancement Project.

‘Voter Confusion’

“Allowing this law to take effect so close to the midterm election is a recipe for chaos, voter confusion and disenfranchisement,” Dale Ho, an ACLU attorney who argued the case before the appeals court this month, said in an e-mailed statement. “The court could have avoided this pandemonium and given Wisconsin voters a chance to cast their ballots free of obstruction. It failed to do so and we are evaluating our next step.”

Dana Brueck, a spokeswoman for Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, declined to comment on today’s ruling. The state’s Supreme Court also upheld the voter-ID law, with the provision that Wisconsin’s motor vehicles department make underlying documents necessary for obtaining an ID available free of charge.

About 300,000 of the state’s more than 3 million voters lack qualifying IDs, according to the law’s challengers.

“It is mathematically impossible” for all who need IDs to get them before the election, the Washington-based Advancement Project said today in a statement.

Republican Appointees

The trio of judges who issued the Sept. 12 order lifting the trial court injunction -- each a Republican presidential appointee -- didn’t issue a final ruling on the merits of the state’s appeal of the lower court ruling, saying it would do so at a later date.

The 10-judge appeals court said, too, that some of its members may issue opinions explaining their vote.

Ruling for the state on Sept. 12 were U.S. circuit judges Frank Easterbrook, an appointee of President Ronald Reagan, and two George W. Bush nominees, Diane S. Sykes and John D. Tinder. Reagan appointees Joel Flaum and Michael S. Kanne joined them in voting against a rehearing.

Voting in favor of rehearing were Reagan nominee Richard A. Posner and an appointee of President George H.W. Bush, Ilana Diamond Rovner. Also voting for reconsideration were Chief Judge Diane P. Wood and Ann Claire Williams, each a selection of Democratic President Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama appointee David F. Hamilton.

The cases are Frank v. Walker, 14-2058, and League of United Latin American Citizens of Wisconsin v. Deininger, 14-2059, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (Chicago).

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