UPDATED: In a statement, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel said that Wisconsin’s Voter ID law will not be in effect for the upcoming April 7 election, because absentee ballots have already been sent out. However, Schimel noted that “The Voter ID law will be in place for future elections – this decision is final.”
The US Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal in a case challenging Wisconsin’s Voter ID law, creating confusion for election officials just two weeks before the state’s spring elections.
The law had been on hold since last fall, after justices put a stay in place while they decided whether to take up a federal appeals court ruling that found the law is Constitutional. The stay followed claims from the American Civil Liberties Union, which challenged the requirement that voters show a government-issued photo identification card at the polls, could cause chaos during the November elections. Monday’s decision not to take the case means the appeals court decision will stand, which could put the requirement back in play for Wisconsin’s April 7 elections.
The ACLU has filed an emergency motion with a federal appeals court to keep the law from immediately taking effect. In a statement, ACLU Voting Rights Project director Dale Ho noted that “although the Supreme Court has declined to take this case, it previously made clear that states may not impose new requirements for voting in the weeks before Election Day. The situation is even more compelling here because absentee ballots have already been mailed out for the April election, and early in-person voting has begun. Imposing a new restriction in the midst of an election will disenfranchise voters who have already cast their ballots. It is a recipe for disaster.”
Officials with the state Government Accountability Board were still evaluating the ruling. A statement posted on the elections agency’s website said they are “awaiting direction from the Wisconsin Department of Justice in anticipation of future action by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals on implementation of Wisconsin’s Voter Photo ID Law.”
Wisconsin’s voter ID law has been the subject of a long legal battle since it was first enacted by Republicans in 2011. It was only in effect for a single primary election in early 2012, before a Dane County judge put it on hold. Further state and federal court challenges have kept it from being enforced for much of the past three years.