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Federal Appeals Court Upholds Wisconsin Voter ID Law

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A three-judge federal appeals court panel has unanimously upheld Wisconsin’s controversial voter ID law, which had been the focus of earlier conflicting federal and state court rulings.

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The order from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, handed down on Sept. 12 just a few hours after the judges heard arguments in the case, found that Wisconsins law was “materially identical” to an Indiana photo ID law that the Supreme Court upheld in 2008. The judges also cited a Wisconsin Supreme Court decision in July that revised the state law’s procedures “to make it easier for persons who have difficulty affording any fees to obtain the birth certificates or other documentation needed under the law, or to have the documentation waived.”

Their ruling overturned an injunction that U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman issued in April, holding that the Wisconsin law discriminated against low-income and minority voters — including older voters. The three appellate court judges all were nominated by Republican presidents; Adelman was nominated by President Bill Clinton.

Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who pushed the state legislature to enact the law in 2011, said that the court’s ruling “makes it easier to vote and harder to cheat.” State election officials said that they planned to advise local officials on implementing the voter ID law.

Democrats complained that the ruling could boost Walker’s November reelection prospects against challenger Mary Burke. Recent polls have shown that the two candidates are in a virtual dead heat. “This ruling will disenfranchise Wisconsin voters and lower voter turnout in this fall's election,” state Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa of Milwaukee said in a statement quoted by the Associated Press.

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Other critics of Walker and the court ruling said that it will disrupt election procedures because the court acted so close to the Nov. 4 election. “Making changes in election rules as voting gets underway (think of overseas and military voters, for whom the process starts 45 days before election) is likely to create a great deal of confusion and uncertainty,” wrote election-law blogger Rich Hasen. “[T]here will be a flood of people needing ID for this election and training of personnel and others for how to implement the new ID laws.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the lawsuit challenging the Wisconsin law, said through a spokesman that it was considering further action.


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