Federal appeals court OK's Wisconsin voter-ID law

To no ones great surprise, the Seventh District Court of Appeals gave its final approval to Wisconsin’s voter-ID law, certifying for use in the upcoming midterm election — again. Last month, the appellate court set aside a lower court ruling blocking the law and temporarily agreed that Wisconsin should implement it while the panel considered its final ruling. That all but cinched the case for the voter ID law, and yesterday the appellate court made it official:

A federal appeals court ruled Monday that Wisconsin’s requirement that voters show photo identification at the polls is constitutional, a decision that is not surprising after the court last month allowed for the law to be implemented while it considered the case.

State elections officials are preparing for the photo ID law to be in effect for the Nov. 4 election, even as opponents continue their legal fight. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Advancement Project asked the U.S. Supreme Court last week to take emergency action and block the law.

Opponents argue that requiring voters to show photo ID, a requirement that had, until recently, been on hold since a low-turnout February 2012 primary, will create chaos and confusion at the polls. But supporters say most people already have a valid ID and, if they don’t, there is time to get one before the election.

The opinion from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals comes a month before the election involving the closely watched race between Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who supports the law, and Democratic challenger Mary Burke.

The law, the court ruled, is substantially the same as Indiana’s voter-ID law, which the Supreme Court upheld. While Wisconsin appealed the district court ruling, it adjusted its policies on identification access and type to match up better with Indiana, and the court recognized that the entire context was that which the Supreme Court had approved in Indiana. In the end, the decision was a no-brainer.

That didn’t keep politicians in Wisconsin from demagoguing on the issue. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who once ran against Scott Walker for governor, told a crowd at city hall that the authors of this bill intend to keep “people of color” and the elderly from voting by requiring them to certify their identity before casting a ballot:

As for the complaints about the short time frame, the city of Milwaukee only have their own mayor and demagogues like him to blame. The voter-ID law passed in 2011, part of the series of reforms pushed through by Walker in the beginning of his term. The cities have had plenty of time to prepare for this, and furthermore should have known that the courts were likely to follow the Supreme Court’s precedent in Indiana. The cries that they are getting blindsided by the requirements at the last minute are just as credible as Barrett’s claims about motivations for supporters of voter-ID laws.

Opponents are mulling over their options at this point, but those appear rather limited. They could request an en banc hearing from the Seventh Circuit, but with a unanimous ruling, there isn’t any reason for the court to apply that kind of intervention. That means the Supreme Court is their only option, but with the precedent already set for voter-ID laws, even a temporary stay is a long shot, and a loss all but certain in the end.