Wisconsin voters will not have to show a government-issued photo ID when they head to the polls April 7, despite a decision by the US Supreme Court on Monday not to hear a challenge to the state’s long stalled Voter ID law. The decision means the law will be allowed to go into effect, but Attorney General Brad Schimel said in a statement Monday morning that, because absentee ballots have already been sent out for the spring elections, “the law cannot be implemented for the April 7 election.”
However, Schimel noted that the Voter ID law will be in place for future elections.
The Supreme Court on Monday morning declined to hear an appeal of a decision from last fall, in which a federal appeals court found Wisconsin’s Voter ID requirement is constitutional. The high court had put the ruling on hold though while considered the appeal, because it came close to the November elections and there were concerns it could cause chaos for voters. The American Civil Liberties Union had filed an emergency request Monday morning to have that stay continued, until after the April 7 elections.
The law has been on hold for much of the past three years. It was used in just a single election in early 2012 before a Dane County judge issued the first injunction blocking its enforcement. The state Supreme Court had previously found the law is constitutional. Schimel, who took office just earlier this year, praised the work of the Department of Justice in defending the law against multiple challenges. He said “Our legal team did an outstanding job defending Wisconsin law, from the trial court to the U.S. Supreme Court.”
In a statement, Governor Scott Walker called the ruling “great news for Wisconsin voters. As we’ve said, this is a common sense reform that protects the integrity of our voting process, making it easy to vote and hard to cheat.”
The League of Women Voters, which had filed a previous challenge in state court that was part of the first wave of cases that put the law on hold, expressed disappointment in the US Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the case. Director Andrea Kaminski said the issue was a matter of national importance, “More and more states are passing strict voter ID laws, and we have all heard the stories of good citizens who have run into problems because they don’t possess an acceptable, government issued ID. The problem with our elections is that not enough people vote in them. The last thing we need is laws that erect barriers for people who have been good voters for decades.”
Kaminski said her group will be working to educate voters about the requirement, after the April 7 elections.
Officials with the state Government Accountability Board said the earliest they expect voters in a statewide election will be required to show a photo ID will be for the spring primary on February 16, 2016.