A surprise decision from the 7th Circuit will allow Wisconsin to enforce its voter-ID law for the upcoming gubernatorial election. The court ruled that recent changes that give citizens more options to gain easier access to qualifying identification make the law legitimate and non-discriminatory, and noted that the statute in Wisconsin is “materially identical to Indiana’s photo ID statute, which the Supreme Court held valid in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, 553 U.S. 181 (2008).” The changes in access to state-issued identification eliminated the differences between the Indiana and Wisconsin cases, the court ruled in lifting a temporary restraining order:
After the district court’s decision, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin revised the procedures to make it easier for persons who have difficulty affording any fees to obtain the birth certificates or other documentation needed under the law, or to have the need for documentation waived. Milwaukee Branch of NAACP v. Walker, 2014 WI 98 (July 31, 2014). This reduces the likelihood of irreparable injury, and it also changes the balance of equities and thus the propriety of federal injunctive relief. The panel has concluded that the state’s probability of success on the merits of this appeal is sufficiently great that the state should be allowed to implement its law, pending further order of this court.
The appeals remain under advisement, and an opinion on the merits will issue in due course.
Scott Walker celebrated the ruling, while his opponent Mary Burke was less complimentary. This report from WMTV in Madison explains just how many forms of ID qualify, including a receipt from the Department of Transportation in case the free card does not arrive in time for Election Day:
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) praised the law as beneficial for voters.
“Voter ID is a common sense reform that protects the integrity of our voting process,” he said in a statement. “Today’s ruling makes it easier to vote and harder to cheat.”
WTMJ in Milwaukee calls this a “game changer,” and Democrats argue that it disproportionally impacts them:
The underlying appeal still remains in place, so it’s possible that the court might still strike the law, but highly unlikely. If they were inclined to do that, they would have left the injunction in place. Thanks to the careful crafting of the law to match Indiana’s law, the Supreme Court won’t overturn it either. Don’t be surprised if the Democrats in this case try to get a temporary injunction for this election at the Supreme Court though, based on the concerns over the transition noted in both of these reports.
Will anyone in Wisconsin really be unprepared for this change? The law was passed years ago, and county clerks and voters had plenty of time to prepare for this outcome. The law itself had already been upheld in Indiana, so the odds were better than not that it would pass muster in Wisconsin as well. Had Democrats in Wisconsin focused on broadening access to IDs rather than trying to obstruct a rational and reasonable measure to prevent vote fraud, everyone would already be prepared for this election to take place under these rules.