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Friday, October 21, 2011

Women's group challenges Wisconsin voter ID law
Sarah Posner at 11:35 AM ET

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[JURIST] The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin filed a lawsuit [complaint, text] Thursday in Dane County Circuit Court [official website] challenging Wisconsin's new voter identification law as a violation of the Wisconsin Constitution [text, PDF]. Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief in challenging the constitutionality of parts of Wisconsin Act 23 passed in 2011. The controversial voter identification law states that any qualified voter must present photo identification at the polls in order to vote in Wisconsin elections for local, state, or federal offices, or referenda. Plaintiffs argue that the new law will place a burden on electors who do not posses a state ID card, who then need to appear in person at the DMV, present proof of identity and pay a fee. The complaint states that the new photo ID requirement will not prevent voting by those ineligible after a conviction, nor will it prevent electors from voting more than once. Plaintiffs assert that Article II, Section 2 of the Wisconsin Constitution provide the exclusive basis for constitutional requirements for voting. The complaint alleges:
The Wisconsin Constitution does not authorize the Legislature to exclude an elector from the right of suffrage for any reason other than those set out in Article II, Section 2, or to impose additional qualifications on the right to vote that are not expressly set out by Article II, Sec. 1.
The Wisconsin government now has 45 days to respond [Wisconsin State Journal report] to the lawsuit. The state can allow the case to proceed in circuit court or petition the Wisconsin Supreme Court directly.

There are now 30 US states that require voters to present some form of ID at the polls, including 14 states that require photo ID, but the issue remains controversial. In August, South Carolina's Senate Minority Caucus filed an objection [JURIST report] with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website], asking for the rejection of the state's new voter identification law. The caucus argued that the law, which requires South Carolina residents to present a current government-issued ID, is too restrictive and may disenfranchise African Americans and elderly voters. The objection followed earlier attempts by several South Carolina civil rights groups [JURIST report] to prevent the law from being implemented. In October 2010, a three-judge panel for the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] struck down [JURIST report] a portion of an Arizona law requiring proof of citizenship for voter registration. The court held that the law, Proposition 200, was inconsistent with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA), which was passed with the intent of increasing voter registration and removing barriers to registration imposed by the states.




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