By John Rondy
MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - The American Civil Liberties on Tuesday sued the state of Wisconsin over its voter ID law, claiming it is unconstitutional and will deprive citizens of their basic right to vote.
The federal complaint seeks an injunction against enforcement of the voter ID law, which takes effect on February 21, 2012 for Wisconsin's spring primary elections.
The lawsuit is currently the only active federal challenge against a voter ID law, the ACLU said in a statement.
"This lawsuit is the opening act in what will be a long struggle to undo the damage done to the right to vote by strict photo ID laws and other voter suppression measures," said Jon Sherman, an attorney with the ACLU Voting Rights Project.
"Across the nation, legislators are robbing countless American citizens of their fundamental right to vote, and in the process, undermining the very legitimacy of our democracy."
The law requires voters to present identification, such as a driver's license or a passport, when they cast ballots in federal, state and local elections.
"The common sense election reforms signed into law earlier this year by Governor Walker are constitutional," said Cullen Werwie, a spokesman for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.
"Requiring photo identification to vote helps ensure the integrity of our elections -- we already require it to get a library card, cold medicine, and public assistance."
Thirty-one states now require voters to show some form of ID before voting, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures website. In 15 of those, including Wisconsin, the ID must include a photo of the voter.
Advocates of the laws, which have passed this year in Alabama, Kansas, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas, say they are needed to combat voter fraud. Opponents say there is no evidence of widespread fraud.
Larry Dupuis, legal director of the ACLU of Wisconsin, predicted countless Wisconsin residents, including veterans, minority voters and seniors who have been voting for decades, will be turned away from the polls under the law's restrictive photo ID requirements.
The law will also have a severe impact on homeless voters, many of whom do not have photo identification, said Heather Johnson, civil rights attorney at the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, also a plaintiff in the suit.
The Wisconsin law already has been challenged in the Dane County Circuit court by the League of Women Voters.
(Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Jerry Norton)