Friday, October 7, 2022 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

No En Banc Rehearing of Wisconsin Voter ID Law

CHICAGO (CN) — Refusing to consider Wisconsin's unconstitutional voter-identification law en banc, the Seventh Circuit found that temporary procedures will be enough to get through the upcoming election.

The federal appeals court is considering two separate challenges to Act 23 — one led by voter Ruthelle Frank, and another led by the group One Wisconsin Now — and it consolidated the two cases for its Aug. 26 order.

In both cases, lower courts ruled last month that the voter-ID law makes it unreasonably difficult to vote for no legitimate reason.

Overhauling the procedures in time for Election Day, however, has proved complicated.

In Frank's case, U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman ruled that polling sites should give ballots to anyone who signs an affidavit stating that they are qualified to vote but that Wisconsin's procedures made it to hard for them to obtain Act 23-qualifying ID.

Wisconsin said its ID petition process, or IDPP, ensured that all qualified voters could get the necessary ID to avoid being disenfranchised, but the judge in One Wisconsin Now's case called this process "pretty much a disaster."

U.S. District Judge James Peterson ordered Wisconsin to overhaul its IDPP process but not necessarily before Nov. 8.

He said emergency measures that Wisconsin already has in place "will allow anyone who enters the IDPP to get a receipt that will serve as a valid ID for the November 2016 election."

Wisconsin is appealing both rulings.

The Seventh Circuit blocked Adelman's ruling but not Peterson's.

With this in mind, the court found that the issue is not so urgent as to require en banc treatment.

The court emphasized that this conclusion depends on Wisconsin's compliance — "namely, that the state adequately inform the general public that those who enter the IDPP will promptly receive a credential for voting, unless it is plain that they are not qualified."

"The Western District [Peterson's court] has the authority to monitor compliance with its injunction, and we trust that it will do so conscientiously between now and the November 2016 election," the ruling states.

Chief U.S. Judge Diane Wood joined the unsigned 4-page ruling with U.S. Circuit Judges Richard Posner, Joel Flaum, Frank Easterbrook, Michael Kanne, Ilana Rovner, Diane Sykes and David Hamilton.

They noted that Wisconsin is set to start printing absentee ballots at the end of this month.

Johnny Koremenos, a spokesman for the state Department of Justice, applauded the ruling.

"The Seventh Circuit's order denying the plaintiffs' en banc petitions is a significant victory for the people of Wisconsin and ensures that Voter ID will be in place for the upcoming election in November," Koremenos said in a statement.

One Wisconsin Now executive director Scot Ross also praised the court for keeping what protections there are in place, but the American Civil Liberties Union is crying foul.

Representing voter Frank, the ACLU says the petition process is unlikely to start protecting voters now.

"The DMV has a 5-year track record of an utter inability to help vulnerable voters obtain ID," Sean Young, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU's Voting Rights Project, said in a phone interview. "You can't trust the DMV to be the ultimate gatekeeper of our democracy."

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.