A Wisconsin appeals court ruled Thursday that the state's Voter ID law is constitutional. The ruling overturns a March 2012 decision by Dane County Judge Richard Niess that declared the law, passed by Republicans in 2011, unconstitutional and enjoined state officials from implementing it.
The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin filed a lawsuit in October 2011 against Gov. Scott Walker and state officials, charging that the voter ID law's requirement that voters present specific forms of photo identification at the ballot box was unconstitutional under Article III of the Wisconsin Constitution.
Appeals Court Judges Paul Higginbotham, Brian Blanchard and Paul Lundsten, however, disagreed with the League's contention that the photo requirement imposes "a restriction that is on its face so burdensome that it effectively denies potential voters their right to vote, and is therefore constitutionally 'unreasonable.'" The League, the judges added, did not present sufficient "evidentiary material" to support its argument.
The judges also disagreed that the requirement "impermissibly constitutes an 'additional qualification' to vote not contained in Article III."
A decision by Dane County Judge David Flanagan blocking the law is still in place. Two federal lawsuits against the law are also pending.
Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen called today's decision "an important step toward full vindication of the law." He acknowledged in a statement the other lawsuits still pending and said his office would "continue to defend the law" and that he looks "forward to favorable decisions in those other cases as well."
Andrea Kaminski, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, says today's decision was a "narrow ruling" and that the group has "high hopes" for the other cases still pending. "We did not provide evidence that this impairs voting because this was a facial challenge and we were looking at whether the Legislature had the authority to pass the law. We believe that evidence does exist, however, and has been brought forward in the other cases."
Attorney Lester Pines, who represents the League in its lawsuit, says that the appeals court determined that since the Legislature requires voters to state their name when they vote, it can impose other qualifications to vote. "We're saying that if you read the [Voter ID] law, the law allows only a limited number of acceptable forms of identification which clearly means that there will be people who won't come with that but who are qualified, registered voters."
Pines says he and his clients will decide in the next couple of weeks whether to petition the Wisconsin Supreme Court for a review of the appeals court decision.
Read the complete ruling.
[Editor's note: This article was updated at 10:57 a.m. to include comments from J.B. Van Hollen, Andrea Kaminski and Lester Pines.]