Wisconsin Pushes for Election With Voter ID

     CHICAGO (CN) – Wisconsin says that its controversial voter ID law, which a federal judge found discriminates against minorities and the poor, must stay in effect for the November election.
     After the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld the law earlier this year, a federal judge struck it down for constitutional and Voting Rights Act violations. The 7th Circuit reversed due to the state court’s revising the 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 need for documentation waived.”
     Last week, opponents of the law asked the Circuit to reconsider this decision, and the state now says that no reconsideration is necessary.
     The brief makes no reference at all to the issues of race and class that dominated both oral arguments and the district court’s opinion, but focuses on the need for finality ahead of November.
     “Plaintiffs are asking this Court to pinball state and local election officials between enforcing and not enforcing the law with an election on the horizon,” the brief says. It notes that the circuit already found the law to be “materially identical to Indiana’s photo ID statute, which the Supreme Court held valid.”
     Each side claims that a ruling for the other at this stage would cause voter confusion and unfairness.
     “Voters would get the pinball treatment, too,” the brief continues. “There has been extensive media coverage and public promotion that voter ID can be enforced and that it will be enforced in November.”
     The brief continues: “Plaintiffs’ petition is heavy on rhetoric and ‘sky is falling’ speculation but light on the pertinent facts. The district court found that more than 90 percent of Wisconsin registered voters already have qualifying ID.” The circuit questioned each side’s logic on the issue of what percentage of disenfranchisement is too much during oral arguments.
     The plaintiffs, which include the American Civil Liberties Union, the AFL-CIO, churches and Latino advocacy groups, had pointed out that absentee ballots have already been mailed and that confusion would result if new requirements were added in the eleventh hour.
     The brief replies to this concern: “Election officials, poll workers, and voters are asked to adapt to electoral changes regularly – for virtually every election cycle. Poll workers will be appropriately trained in the photo ID requirement and equipped to handle it on Election Day. Inevitably, there will be administrative issues that arise, but questions necessarily arise in election administration.”
     With reference to its victory last week, the state said that “with regard to those voters who do not currently have qualifying ID, this Court’s Order correctly found that the State’s recent procedures for issuing free ID cards decrease the burden on affected voters to such an extent that the law may be enforced.”

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