Wisconsin voter ID opponents want new hearing

AP News
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Posted: Sep 16, 2014 6:13 PM

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Civil rights advocates said Tuesday they plan to ask the full 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider a ruling by a three-judge panel that reinstated Wisconsin's voter photo identification law.

With seven weeks until Election Day and with absentee ballots already coming in, state and local elections officials were working feverishly to implement the law after Friday's ruling, which came just hours after oral arguments in the case.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Advancement Project released a statement saying they planned to file a motion with the court Tuesday asking for a re-hearing in front of the entire appeals court, a proceeding that usually involves around 10 judges, rather than the three who typically decide cases.

The court rarely grants such requests, but the two groups vowed to exhaust every legal option to stop the law.

A spokeswoman for Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, who defended the law, declined to comment.

Republican lawmakers passed a law in 2011 requiring people to show certain government-issued photo ID at the polls to vote. Allowable IDs include driver's licenses, state ID cards, passports, some college student IDs, military IDs, naturalization certificates or IDs issued by a Wisconsin-based American Indian tribe.

Military and permanent overseas voters are exempt from the requirement.

Because of multiple legal challenges, the requirement had not been enforced since the February 2012 primary.

But Kevin Kennedy, Wisconsin's chief elections official, said work done after the law was passed in 2011 has put the state in a good position to implement the law quickly now.

"We don't have to reinvent the wheel," Kennedy said at a Tuesday news conference.

The most pressing immediate issue was what to do about more than 11,800 voters who had requested absentee ballots before the ruling. Hundreds of those ballots, which were obtained without having to show photo identification, have already been filled out and returned to local election clerks, Kennedy said.

Everyone who requested an absentee ballot will be contacted and told they need to present a copy of an allowable photo ID in order to have their ballot counted, Kennedy said.

For new requests, voters will have to show copies of their IDs before being sent the ballot.

Another area of concern is that many college IDs in Wisconsin don't include information required under the law for them to be used for voting purposes, Kennedy said. Under the law, the college IDs must have signatures on them and expire within two years of being issued.

Anyone who doesn't have the proper ID on Election Day can cast a provisional ballot. They would then have until 4 p.m. on the Friday after the election to present the required ID to have the vote counted.

Election clerks will undergo additional training, some are hiring more staff, and the elections board is posting information about photo ID on its website to help implement the law smoothly, Kennedy said.

Kennedy said he had no estimate on how the new law may affect turnout in the Nov. 4 election.

But the Advancement Project and the ACLU said the court's ruling will create widespread confusion that could prevent more than 300,000 people who lack photo IDs from voting.

"Regardless of the ultimate outcome of this case, there simply isn't enough time to educate the public, get IDs into their hands and train the poll workers. There's just too much to do here," said ACLU attorney Dale Ho. "It's a recipe for chaos."

The groups filed a federal lawsuit challenging the mandate in 2011, the same year it was passed. A federal judge in Milwaukee found the law unconstitutional this spring, but Van Hollen has asked the 7th Circuit to overturn that decision.

A three-judge 7th Circuit panel — all appointed by former Republican presidents — ruled Friday that the state could implement the law while it considers the merits of the case.

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