With the Wisconsin Supreme Court set to release decisions Thursday on cases challenging the state’s voter ID law that was filed nearly three years ago, the executive director of the Wisconsin League of Women Voters said, in many ways, “we feel we have already won.”
The law that requires voters to show a picture ID prior to voting was passed in May of 2011. That October, the league became the first of four organizations to file a lawsuit.
The law, which quickly became the most restrictive of its kind in the country when it passed, was in place for one election cycle in February 2012.
It was subsequently blocked under a Dane County Circuit Court ruling issued by Judge Richard Niess in March of 2012. For the next seven elections, voters did not have to show their ID’s, said Andrea Kaminski, the league’s executive director.
A federal judge blocked the law in April as part of a separate case that filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and others. It’s the decision in this case the state is appealing now.
A separate case filed by the Advancement Project is now in federal court, and a case jointly filed by the NAACP and Voces de la Frontera also will be ruled on Thursday by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
“We hope we win, and we think we have a strong case,” Kaminski said. “Even if the Supreme Court doesn’t agree with us, a federal judge has blocked the law. The state is appealing that decision, but the law likely won’t be in effect for November.”
The groups filed suit for different reasons.
The Wisconsin League of Women Voters alleged the law violates the suffrage section of the Wisconsin Constitution. It claims the Legislature did not have the authority to enact a law that would disenfranchise qualified voters.
Kaminisk said the state made it more difficult to vote than to register to vote by requiring a photo ID for one action but not the other.
“You could be registered and then you walk over to get a ballot and you could be told you need something more, a photo ID,” Kaminski said. “The Legislature does not have the power to tack on additional requirements to vote. That’s what we found unconstitutional.”
In their suit, the NAACP and Voces de la Frontera allege the law violates the equal protection clause of the state Constitution. Kaminski speculated the court could issue a split decision Thursday, given the two cases allege the law is unconstitutional for two separate reasons.