Update: Appeals court reverses ruling that overturned Wisconsin voter ID law

UPDATE – 8/10, 3:26 p.m. EST: A federal appeals court judge Wednesday overturned a ruling in mid-July by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin which had deemed parts of the state’s voter-ID laws to be unconstitutional.

A subsequent statement by the U.S. Department of Justice said the stay issued by the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago reasoned that “both that the district court’s decision is likely to be reversed on appeal and that disruption of the state’s electoral system in the interim will cause irreparable injury.”

The ruling by District Court Judge James Peterson which struck down significant portions of Wisconsin’s photo-ID laws on July 29, described below, is a separate case which may have to be reconciled with Wednesday’s ruling.

In addition to the Badger State, Texas, Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, Indiana and Kansas have mandatory photo-ID laws.


A U.S. District Court judge in Madison, Wisconsin, ruled Friday that parts of multiple election-related laws in the state, including strict identification requirements and restrictions on early in-person voting, are unconstitutional.

In addition, Judge James Peterson issued an order that any state resident attempting to obtain a voter-ID, but without valid documentation, must be issued one within 30 days and that expired student ID’s are valid to vote.

“The Wisconsin experience demonstrates that a preoccupation with mostly phantom election fraud leads to real incidents of disenfranchisement,” Judge Peterson wrote in his ruling. “To put it bluntly, Wisconsin’s strict version of voter ID law is a worse cure than the disease.

“The Legislature’s objective was political,” he continued. “Republicans sought to maintain control of state government. But the methods that the Legislature chose to achieve that involved suppressing the votes of Milwaukee’s residents, who are disproportionately African-American and Latino.”

Specifically, Judge Peterson cited facets of Wisconsin’s voting laws to be in violation of the First, Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments of the U.S. Constitution, which protect free speech, equal protection under the law and the right to vote.

State Republican Attorney General, Brad Schimel, said he will file a petition to appeal the ruling, and Gov. Scott Walker issued a statement saying the decision was made “by an activist federal judge. Voters support common-sense measures to protect the integrity of our votes.”

In related news Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Hovland blocked a 2013 North Dakota state law which reversed a policy permitting state residents to vote without identification.

Previous to the passage of that legislation, North Dakotans who lacked a valid driver’s license or other valid form of ID could submit a ballot through the testimony of a poll official or by signing an affidavit that he or she was eligible to vote.

“The public interest in protecting the most cherished right to vote for thousands of Native Americans who currently lack a qualifying ID and cannot obtain one, outweighs the purported interest and arguments of the state,” Judge Hovland wrote. “There are a multitude of easy remedies that most states have adopted in some form to alleviate this burden.”

Plaintiffs in the case, a North Dakota Indian tribe, cited a statistic that nearly 25 percent of Native Americans in the state do not have a valid form of ID to vote.

Unlike in Wisconsin, the District Court ruling in Bismark will not be appealed.  North Dakota’s Republican Secretary of State, Al Jaeger, conceded that election procedures will “have to go back to how it was prior to 2013. That’s all we can do at this particular point.”


[Milwaukee Journal Sentinel] [Wisconsin State Journal] [AP via Fox News] [Reuters] [Photo courtesy badgerherald.com]