The League of Women Voters' lawsuit challenging the state voter ID law can go ahead after a Dane County judge ruled Monday that the group is a proper party to bring the lawsuit, and that Gov. Scott Walker is a proper defendant.
Circuit Judge Richard Niess wrote in a 15-page decision that League president Melanie Ramey has legal standing to sue Walker and the state Government Accountability Board, turning aside arguments by lawyers for Walker and the GAB that Ramey is not directly affected by the law that requires voters to show one of several types of photo identification when voting.
The state Department of Justice, which is representing Walker and the GAB, was still reviewing the decision, spokeswoman Dana Brueck said.
The League had countered that whether Ramey herself was affected or not was beside the point because the requirement imposes an additional impediment to voting that is not specified in the state constitution.
"In this, she is surely correct," Niess wrote.
Further, he wrote, the League is in the best position to argue on behalf of voters who are "too physically infirm, mentally ill, impoverished, itinerant, elderly or simply neglectful to comply" but are still qualified voters under the state constitution.
"This is the same cohort of citizens that shows up in the circuit courts in increasing numbers, day in and day out, without lawyers, in foreclosure proceedings, collection actions and family matters," Niess wrote. "Who will advocate for them on these constitutional issues that affect their fundamental, inherent and constitutional right to vote, if not the plaintiffs, or entities like the plaintiffs?"
Walker, Niess wrote, is a proper defendant because under recent state law he has ultimate authority over rule-making by state agencies, including GAB.
"Gov. Walker has a virtual monopoly on implementing these administrative rules and regulations," Niess wrote.
The League's lawsuit is one of several now in Wisconsin courts challenging the voter ID law that was first in effect during the spring primary elections on Feb. 21.