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Jul 18 / Elizabeth DiNovella

Another Judge Rules Against Wisconsin Voter ID Law

A second judge has ruled Wisconsin’s voter ID law is unconstitutional, all but assuring that the photo ID requirement will not be in place for the November elections.

Dane County Circuit Judge David Flanagan declared that the state’s requirement that all voter show a specific type of government-issued photo identification at the polls creates a “substantial impairment of the right to vote” guaranteed by the state constitution.

This injunction, issued temporarily by Flanagan in March, was made permanent in the twenty-page decision he released Tuesday. The plaintiffs in the suit are Voces de la Frontera and the Milwaukee branch of the NAACP.

This is the second ruling against the law. A different Dane County judge, Richard Niess, permanently blocked the voter ID law in March in a case brought by the League of Women Voters.

Attorney General J. B. Van Hollen has pledged to appeal both rulings.

This latest court victory for voter rights was announced the same day the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University of Law released a report highlighting the ten states with the toughest voter identification laws: Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin.

This report is the first comprehensive assessment of the difficulties that eligible voters face in obtaining free photo ID.

“The problem is not requiring voter ID, per se—the problem is requiring ID that many voters simply do not have,” the report states. “Study after study confirms that 1 in 10 eligible voters lack these specific government documents.”

The report notes that 11 percent of eligible voters who lack the required photo ID must travel to a designated government office to obtain one. And it singles out Sauk City, Wisconsin, as an example of the challenges faced by voters: “Many ID-issuing offices maintain limited business hours. For example, the office in Sauk City, Wisconsin, is open only on the fifth Wednesday of any month. But only four months in 2012—February, May, August, and October—have five Wednesdays.”

Advocates for the voter ID law bleet about voter fraud. But here in Wisconsin, there’s been very few allegations of fraud that have been substantiated.

The Brennan report makes clear what’s actually at stake: “This November, restrictive voter ID states will provide 127 electoral votes—nearly half of the 270 needed to win the Presidency.”

Wisconsin voters may be safe this November, but other states won’t be so lucky. Pennsylvania is a big swing state that also recently enacted a tough voter ID law.

Last month, Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, a Republican, included the passing of a voter ID law in a list of GOP achievements. He said the new law “is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”

You can’t get much more obvious—or duplicitous—than that.

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