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Wednesday, July 17, 2024 | Back issues
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Wisconsin Voter ID Law Enjoined as ‘Restrictive’

MADISON, Wis. (CN) - Wisconsin's Voter ID law has been overturned and will not be in effect for the state's April 3 presidential primary.

Wisconsin Act 23 (2011), passed last year by the Republican-controlled Legislature, requires voters to present state-approved photo ID to vote in federal, state and local elections

The Milwaukee Branch of the NAACP, Voces de la Frontera, and 12 individual voters challenged the constitutionality of the law in December. They asked the Dane County Court to find that the Voter ID law violates Article III, Section 1 of the Wisconsin Constitution which, unlike the U.S. Constitution, explicitly guarantees all eligible Wisconsin residents the right to vote.

Dane County Judge David Flanagan called the Voter ID law "the single most restrictive voter eligibility law in the United States."

He relied on the testimony of Kenneth Mayer, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, calling it "competent, well-founded, entirely credible and persuasive."

Using census data and other demographic information, including a 2006 study conducted by another professor at the University of Milwaukee, titled "Driver License Status of Voting Age Population in Wisconsin," Professor Mayer concluded that there were more than 221,975 constitutionally eligible voters in Wisconsin who did not have the ID required by the new law.

Judge Flanagan found that Mayer's expert testimony was consistent with appellate decisions of Voter ID laws Indiana, Missouri, Georgia, and Michigan.

Flanagan also cited 40 uncontested affidavits as a basis to issue the temporary injunction. He said the affidavits "offer a picture of carousel visits to government offices, delay, dysfunctional computer systems, misinformation and significant investment of time to avoid being turned away at the ballot box."

Flanagan found no evidence that the new law would prevent voter fraud.

He agreed with Mayer's testimony that the elderly, the indigent and racial minorities are more heavily burdened by the ID requirements of Act 23.

Flanagan found that the plaintiffs "demonstrated the probability of success as well as the likelihood of irreparable harm" if the photo ID law is implemented.

"Given the sacred, fundamental interest in issue, it is very clear that Act 23, while arguably addressing a legitimate concern, has not been sufficiently focused to avoid needless and significant impairment of the right to vote," the judge wrote.

This was the fourth court challenge to Wisconsin's Voter ID law. The case is set for trial to begin on April 16.

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