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Saturday, May 18, 2024 | Back issues
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Judge Won’t Expand Wisconsin Voter ID Law

(CN) - A federal judge declined Monday to expand Wisconsin's voter ID law to allow alternative IDs or a sworn affidavit at the polls.

Seventeen voters represented by the American Civil Liberties Union sued Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and other state officials in 2011, challenging the state's voter identification law. They argued that the law "constitutes an unconstitutional poll tax for eligible Wisconsin voters" because of the fees required for some voters to get identification.

Some voters claimed they will never be able to obtain acceptable identification documents, which include a Wisconsin driver's license, a DMV-issued state ID card, a U.S. uniformed service ID card, a passport, a recent naturalization certificate or an unexpired identification card issued by an accredited Wisconsin university or college.

The litigating voters sought an injunction "allowing persons to vote at their polling place without presenting an ID but instead by signing an affidavit attesting to their identity and to the difficulties they would face in obtaining ID," according to court records.

A Wisconsin appeals court upheld the legislation in 2013, finding that the requirement to show photo IDs at the polls does not violate the state's constitution. After that, the Seventh Circuit ruled that the state can enforce the voter ID law during the November 2014 elections.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case, leaving the law in place.

U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman denied a permanent injunction motion Monday, ruling that Wisconsin "had to draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable forms of ID somewhere." He struck down claims related to technical college IDs, out-of-state driver's licenses and veteran's IDs.

"If the state could not limit the number of IDs to a manageable amount, state officials would be required to compile a list of all forms of accepted ID that a Wisconsin voter might possess, make sure that the list was updated regularly, and identify all the forms of ID that are 'just as secure' as the least secure form of ID that is already on the list of acceptable IDs," Adelman wrote. "Act 23 would need to be periodically amended to include any forms of ID that are 'just as secure' as the IDs that are already acceptable. And poll workers would need frequent training on which IDs are acceptable."

The judge said that such requirements "would make it harder for the state to administer the law, and it is rational for the state to want to minimize this burden."

ACLU's Voting Rights Project Director Dale Ho expressed his disappointment in Monday's ruling. He said the organization is "looking at our next steps as we continue efforts to dismantle these obstacles to voting."

"Wisconsinites face barriers to the polls due to the limited forms of ID mandated under the state's restrictive voter ID law. It's unconscionable that even veterans, who have so valiantly served our country, can't use their government-issued IDs under this law," Ho said in a statement. "People should have a broader range of common-sense options."

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