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Appeals Court OKs Wisconsin's Strict Voter ID Law

A federal appeals court on Friday declined to soften Wisconsin’s strict voter ID law.
A voter casts her ballot in a booth on Nov. 4, 2014, in Thornton, Colorado.Jack Dempsey / AP file

A federal appeals court on Friday declined to soften Wisconsin’s strict voter ID law.

The court’s decision likely means that, barring intervention by the U.S. Supreme Court, the strict ID measure will be in place in a key presidential swing state, where it could make voting much harder, especially for racial minorities and students.

In July, a district court ruled that Wisconsin must soften its law by allowing voters who were unable to get ID to sign an affidavit attesting to their identity. Earlier this month, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit blocked that ruling from going into effect for the November election. On Friday afternoon, the full appeals court unanimously upheld the panel’s decision, after an appeal from voting rights groups.

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The appeals court noted that in a separate challenge to the voter ID law, a court had required Wisconsin to make IDs as easy as possible to obtain, including by giving out temporary IDs at DMV offices. As a result, the appeals court found, the affidavit option is unnecessary to ensure that voters aren’t disenfranchised.

But voting rights advocates weren’t convinced that the state will really make IDs easy to get. On Twitter, Dale Ho of the ACLU called the state’s pledge to give out temporary IDs to all who need them “dubious.” Ho noted that the lower court had found that the state’s efforts on that score had for five years been marked by “utter failure.”

“Our appeal will continue,” Ho added, referring to an ongoing appeal to the en banc panel.

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An estimated 300,000 Wisconsinites, disproportionately racial minorities, lack the ID needed under the law, which was passed by Republicans and signed by Gov. Scott Walker in 2011. The state has pointed to essentially no in-person voter impersonation fraud to justify the law.

In a separate voting case, the 7th Circuit this week refused to block a lower court’s order that overturned Wisconsin’s cuts to early voting. And strict voting laws in North Carolina, Texas, Kansas and elsewhere also have been blocked or softened by courts lately.