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February 27, 2015

Wisconsin Supreme Court upholds Act 10, Voter ID, Domestic Partner Registry

WRN file photo

WRN file photo

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has brought legal challenges to Act 10 to a close. On a 5-2 vote Thursday, the justices threw out previous rulings from a Dane County circuit judge, who had said that the Act 10 public union bargaining limits did not apply to local and school unions. It was among several lawsuits which challenged the constitutionality of Act 10, Governor Scott Walker’s signature legislation from 2011, which limits the ability of public employees to bargain collectively. The ruling means Walker and Republicans who control the state legislature can now claim victory in preserving Act 10 as they head into fall reelection campaigns.

The justices also upheld Wisconsin’s photo ID requirement for voters, but that law won’t be implemented unless federal courts also sign off on it. The justices voted 5-2 to dismiss lower court decisions which threw out the ID requirement. A pair of Dane County judges had ruled in favor of the League of Women Voters and the NAACP, which contended that the 2011 law discouraged minorities, the elderly, and young people from voting. Earlier this year, Federal Judge Lynn Adelman ruled the law violated the Constitution and the federal Voting Rights Act. State Attorney General J-B Van Hollen has appealed that decision, but a ruling from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago is unlikely anytime soon. Wisconsin voters will not need to show ID to vote in the state partisan primaries on August 12th, and probably won’t be required to do so in November’s elections.

The Supreme Court also upheld Wisconsin’s domestic partner registry, which provides same-sex couples in the state with some of the legal benefits of married couples. The unanimous ruling marked a defeat for Wisconsin Family Action, a group which tried unsuccessfully to get the justices to strike down the registry just before its 2009 implementation. The registry provides for hospital visitation rights and various end-of-life decisions to couples who apply.