The ACLU is hailing a federal appeals court ruling that opens the door to those who have trouble getting a photo ID to vote without having to show one.
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Tuesday sent the lawsuit back to a federal judge for further hearings. The law, which was in effect for the spring elections, remains in place.
“The court ruled that eligible voters facing difficulty obtaining ID have the right to challenge Wisconsin’s strict voter ID law,” said Sean Young
, an attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “This ruling gives them the chance to go back to the lower court to make their case. This is a victory for the voters of Wisconsin.”
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has previously found Wisconsin’s voter ID law constitutional, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal.
But those who face “daunting obstacles to obtaining acceptable photo ID,” went back to court arguing they deserved relief from the requirement. A federal judge dismissed the argument, citing the 7th Circuit’s 2014 decision.
In Tuesday’s decision
, the panel wrote the new arguments are different from the previous case in which the appeals court upheld the law. Then, the argument was an “inconvenience for some voters means that no one needs photo ID,” but now opponents argue “that high hurdles for some persons eligible to vote entitle those particular persons to relief.”
That includes eligible voters unable to get an acceptable photo ID because of errors on their birth certificates or problems with other documents, which may no longer exist. The case also noted some of those seeking to vote need a credential from another agency, such as the Social Security Administration, that will not issue it without a photo ID from the Wisconsin DOT, which won’t produce a card until the other credential has been obtained.
“Plaintiffs’ approach is potentially sound if even a single person eligible to vote is unable to get acceptable photo ID with reasonable effort,” the court wrote. “The right to vote is personal and is not defeated by the fact that 99% of other people can secure the necessary credentials easily.”
DOJ spokesman Johnny Koremenos stressed the court found the law is “unquestionably constitutional” for those who have or readily can get an ID.
The case sent back to district court is on a narrow issue considering DOT has created a way for people to get the cards free of charge.
“Given the overwhelming success of the DOT program, and the fact that our state's recent primary elections involved record turnouts, we are confident that we will prevail on the narrow issues that the court remanded on,” he said.
The appeals court wrote in its decision the district court should permit both sides in the case to examine how the state’s system works before addressing plaintiffs’ arguments.
-- By JR Ross