A Collaboration with University of Pittsburgh   

Wisconsin voter ID law ruled unconstitutional

A Dane County Circuit Court [official website] judge Monday ruled [opinion, PDF] that Wisconsin Act 23 [text, PDF] is unconstitutional, after a different judge issued a temporary injunction [JURIST report] last week. Act 23 modified current voting laws by requiring a photo ID at the polls and a 28-day residency before the election and shortening the amount of time to file absentee ballots. Judge Richard Niess ordered a permanent injunction of the law, in favor of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin [advocacy website; JURIST report], stating that Act 23 amounts to voter suppression:

However, Act 23 goes beyond mere regulation of elections. Its photo ID requirements impermissibly eliminate the right of suffrage altogether for certain constitutionally qualified electors. As just one example, an individual who has incontrovertible and even undisputed proof at the polls that he/she is a qualified elector under Article III, but lacks statutorily acceptable photo ID then or by the following Friday, may not vote under Act 23. Thus, Act 23's photo ID requirements are unconstitutional because they abridge the right to vote. Regulation may not deny the right of suffrage, either directly or indirectly. This has been the law of Wisconsin since its birth: "an act of the legislature which deprives a person of the right to vote, although he has every qualification which the constitution makes necessary, cannot be sustained." Worded differently, as a matter of law under the Wisconsin Constitution, sacrificing a qualified elector's right to vote is not a reasonable exercise of the government's prerogative to regulate elections.
The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin stated it was delighted with the ruling [press release, PDF]. Wisconsin Attorney General JB Van Hollen [official website] plans to appeal [press release].

This is only one of four challenges to Wisconsin's voter ID [JURIST news archives] law. The temporary injunction, issued last week by Circuit Court Judge David Flanagan, was in a suit filed in December by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) [advocacy website]. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of Wisconsin and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty [advocacy websites] filed a federal lawsuit in December, as did the Advancement Project [JURIST reports] in February. There are now 31 US states [NCSL backgrounder] that require voters to present some form of ID at the polls, including 15 states that require photo ID, but the issue remains controversial.

Support JURIST

We rely on our readers to keep JURIST running

 Donate now!

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.