MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday blocked Wisconsin from implementing a law requiring voters to present photo IDs, overturning a lower court decision that would have put the law in place for the November election.
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declared the law constitutional on Monday. The American Civil Liberties Union followed that up the next day with an emergency request to the Supreme Court asking it to block the ruling.
On Thursday night the U.S. Supreme Court did so, issuing a one-page order that vacated the appeals court ruling pending further proceedings. Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented, saying the application should have been denied because there was no indication that the 7th Circuit had demonstrably erred.
The voter photo identification law has been a political flashpoint since Republican legislators passed it in 2011. The GOP argues the mandate is a common sense step toward reducing election fraud. Democrats maintain no widespread fraud exists and that the law is really an attempt to keep Democratic constituents who may lack ID, such as the poor, minorities and the elderly, from voting.
The law was in effect for the February 2012 primary but subsequent legal challenges put it on hold and it hasn't been in place for any election since.
The ACLU and allied groups persuaded a federal judge in Milwaukee to declare the law unconstitutional in April.
Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen asked the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the decision. A three-judge panel ruled last month that the state could implement the law while it considered the merits of the case, sparking outrage from the ACLU, its allies and Democrats who contended that state election officials couldn't re-implement the law in time for the Nov. 4 elections and that chaos would reign at the polls.
A flurry of legal jousting ensued. The ACLU asked the Supreme Court last week to take emergency action to block the appeals panel's decision. On Monday the 7th Circuit issued a full ruling declaring the law constitutional, a decision that was all but certain given the initial order allowing the state to move ahead, promoting the ACLU to follow Tuesday with another emergency request to the Supreme Court.