April 16, 2014

Van Hollen asks for action on voter ID law

Wisconsin’s attorney general wants the state Supreme Court to reinstate a voter ID law before the November election. The requirement has been blocked since earlier this year by two court injunctions out of Dane County. Both cases are currently before an appellate court, but Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is asking the state Supreme Court to take them up right away.

Van Hollen is filing a request with the court to take control of the cases from the appellate level and stay the injunctions for the time being. He says the high court should bring a prompt and clear resolution to the matter, rather than letting the issue stall in the court system.

One of the lawsuits is based on charges that some voters will have too much difficulty obtaining a photo ID, while the other argues the law is unconstitutional because it creates a new class of voter. While he admits they have different legal issues involved, Van Hollen wants both cases to be combined so there can be a unified decision.

The law approved last year was in effect for one election in February before the first injunction was put in place. In total, two separate judges have issued injunctions after ruling the law was unconstitutional. The state Supreme Court already turned down requests earlier this year to take both cases, sending them back to the appellate level. Van Hollen says he wants to give the court another chance to take control of the case.

The request is drawing criticism from those behind the lawsuits. Wisconsin League of Women Voters executive director Andrea Kaminski says it would be a “grave error” for the court to join their case with one brought by the Milwaukee Branch of the NAACP and immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera. Kaminski says both lawsuits are based on different parts of the constitution and deserve their own day in court.

Assembly Republican leaders praised the attorney general’s request, saying “it’s time for our state’s highest court to determine that Voter ID is a fair and common sense law that should be in place for the November elections.”

State Democratic Party chairman Mike Tate blasted the lawsuit, saying the effort “reeks of partisanship” and could put a law back in place that would “disenfranchise seniors, veterans, students, and people from all walks of life.”

Van Hollen filed the requests late Tuesday morning with the Supreme Court.

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:15)

WHBY’s Mike Kemmeter contributed to this report.