Appeals Court Blocks Remedy To Weaken Wisconsin Voter ID Law

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An appeals court has temporarily halted the remedy approved by lower court in Wisconsin to soften that state’s voter ID law with an affidavit for voters who do not have the required forms of ID.

A panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said it was likely to reverse a district court’s decision when fully appealed, because the remedy was too broad and did not do enough to identify when voters legitimately faced obstacles in obtaining the required forms of ID. The decision also cited concerns about disrupting voting protocols so close to an election.

“Because the district court has not attempted to distinguish genuine
difficulties of the kind our opinion mentioned,” the appeals court said, referring to its previous decision to send the case back to the lower court for remedy, “or any other variety of substantial obstacle to voting, from any given voter’s unwillingness to make the effort that the Supreme Court has held that a state can require, there is a substantial likelihood that the injunction will be reversed on appeal.”

Individual voters, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, sued Wisconsin over the voter ID law after it was passed by Republicans in the legislature and signed by Gov Scott Walker (R) in 2011. A district court struck the law down in its entirety, but that ruling was reversed by a 7th Circuit appeals court panel.

In a separate appeal by the ACLU, the appeals court allowed for the district court to hash out a narrow remedy allowing voters facing certain obstacles in attaining the required IDs to vote via affidavit. But the stay issued Wednesday by the appeals court in effect rejected that remedy, which means Wisconsin’s voter ID law could be in place in full for November’s election.

Challengers may still appeal the decision to the full circuit court or to the Supreme Court.

Walker praised the decision in a statement Wednesday that called it “a step in the right direction.”

The Wisconsin law also faces a separate challenge, in which a district judge recently softened aspects of the ID requirement while striking down some of the state’s other voting restrictions.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tierney Sneed is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked for U.S. News and World Report. She grew up in Florida and attended Georgetown University.

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