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Status of Wisconsin Voter ID Lawsuits

Wisconsin’s voter ID law (2011 Wisconsin Act 23) was passed in 2011 and has been blocked since March 2012. The law has been challenged by four lawsuits - two in state court and two in federal court. There are currently two injunctions -- state and federal -- against the law. 

BACKGROUND:  In October 2011 the League of Women Voters filed a lawsuit in state court, claiming that the state legislature violated the Suffrage section (Article III) of the Wisconsin state constitution when it impermissibly enacted a law that added a new qualification for voting. The new requirement could disenfranchise otherwise qualified citizens, even if they are registered voters. A separate lawsuit was filed in state court by two other civil rights groups, NAACP Milwaukee Chapter and Voces de la Frontera. That challenge claims the law violates not only the Suffrage section but also the constitutional equality provisions by imposing unreasonable burdens on the right to vote which are tantamount to a denial of the right to vote.

The League won a injunction on the law in Dane County Circuit Court on March 12, 2012, and the other case won a separate injunction a couple of months later. The State appealed both rulings, and the cases were assigned to two separate districts of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals. The injunction in the League of Women Voters case was reversed in May 2013 by the Appeals Court District IV. The League petitioned the state Supreme Court for a review of that ruling, which we believe is flawed. The injunction in the NAACP/Voces de la Frontera lawsuit is still in effect.

CURRENT STATUS: 
The Wisconsin Supreme Court announced November 20, 2012 that it will review the Appeals Court ruling in the League's case, and it will consolidate oral arguments with the NAACP/Voces case, which was still in the Appeals Court District II. Oral arguments for both cases were held February 25, 2014. It was covered by WisconsinEye. The Supreme Court is expected to issue its ruling in July 2014. 

There are also two lawsuits in federal court – one filed by The Advancement Project and the other by the ACLU and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty on behalf of 25 voters. Both were assigned to Judge Lynn Adelman, and a trial was held in November 2013. The Advancement Project case is the first challenge to a voter ID law based on Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits racially discriminatory voting laws. The ACLU lawsuit includes constitutional claims as well as a Section 2 challenge. Read about the trial in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and/or Bloomberg News. In April 2014, Judge Adelman ruled that the law violates the U.S. Constitution and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.  See his ruling here.  On May 13, Attorney General Van Hollen is appealing the case. 

IMPACT:  Because of the injunctions won in state court, no Wisconsin voters were disenfranchised by the voter ID law in five elections in 2012 and 2013, including the high-turnout Presidential election. The federal injunction is expected to have national impact.


Click here
for a list of pending election law litigation cases in various states compiled by Election Law @ Moritz (The Ohio State University, Moritz College of Law). Click here for a compilation of state voter ID requirements and legislation by National Conference of State Legislatures.

This page is reviewed weekly and updated when there is news.

Updated July 3, 2014.


Copyright League of Women Voters of Wisconsin