Wisconsin’s voter ID law is one of the harshest in the country and requires voters to produce one of a few specified forms of photo identification in order to vote. This restriction imposes a substantial burden on the right to vote by requiring photo identification that many voters do not have, and that many voters cannot easily obtain, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution. In addition, the Wisconsin voter ID law violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits the use of voting practices that have a negative impact on racial and language minorities. The law has a disproportionate impact on black and Latino voters, who are twice as likely to lack photo ID accepted for voting in Wisconsin compared to white voters.
On December 13, 2011, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin challenging Wisconsin's voter ID law. On April 29, 2014, the district court ruled that the law was unconstitutional and in violation of the Voting Rights Act, and struck down Wisconsin’s voter ID law in its entirety. On October 6, the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed that ruling, but the ACLU successfully blocked the law from taking effect for both the November 2014 midterms and the April 2015 primary.
The ACLU subsequently asked the federal district court to allow certain people who have difficulty obtaining identification to vote by affidavit. On October 19, 2015, the district court denied our request, and we immediately appealed. The appeal is fully briefed, and oral argument took place Thursday, April 7, 2016.
Our appeal to the Seventh Circuit was successful, and on April 12, the appeals court revived the ACLU's challenge to the voter ID law, directing the district court to consider the claims of voters who have trouble obtaining identification under Wisconsin’s strict voter ID law.
UPDATED July/August 2016: On July 19,the district court granted plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction, requiring Wisconsin to offer voters who do not possess an ID and cannot obtain one with reasonable effort the option of receiving a ballot by signing an affidavit. The order requires Wisconsin to implement this affidavit option in time for the November 2016 general election and, while this case is pending, helps to ensure that Wisconsin voters have an opportunity to make their voices heard in the election. On July 29, the plaintiffs filed a petition for initial en banc hearing, asking the full Court of Appeals to overrule the prior Seventh Circuit decision upholding Wisconsin’s voter ID law. On August 10, the Seventh Circuit panel granted a stay of the district court’s preliminary injunction. On August 11, plaintiffs filed an emergency petition to the full en banc Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit to vacate that stay.
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District Court (E.D. Wis.)