Supreme Court Blocks Wisconsin Republicans’ Voter ID Law

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Supreme Court Blocks Wisconsin Republicans’ Voter ID Law

Jessica Mason Pieklo

In an order issued Thursday night the Roberts Court ruled Wisconsin officials could not enforce voter identification requirements in the November general election.

The Roberts Court on Thursday night issued an order blocking Wisconsin’s new voter identification law from being enforced in the upcoming November election.

Wisconsin Act 23 mandates voters show one of only nine specific forms of identification in order to voter either by absentee ballot or in person. Wisconsin lawmakers passed the law more than three years ago, but because of ongoing legal challenges to its constitutionality, the restrictions have only been enforced once in a state primary election in 2012.

Two state courts blocked its enforcement in 2012 on the grounds the law violates the Wisconsin Constitution. Meanwhile, a federal trial judge in April ruled that the law violated the U.S. Constitution as well as Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Last month a three-judge panel from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued a temporary order allowing the state to enforce the ID requirements in the November 4 general election.

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According to advocates challenging the law, thousands of Wisconsin voters have already cast ballots without producing the kind of ID required, while tens of thousands of voters reportedly do not have the required ID in order to vote November 4.

The one-paragraph, unsigned order offered no reason for blocking the Wisconsin law. Justice Samuel Alito, in a short dissent, concedes that while he would have allowed the restrictions to go into effect, the Supreme Court’s 2006 decision in Purcell v. Gonzalez tells federal courts they should be reluctant to issue orders on state election laws as an election nears.

Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas joined in Alito’s dissent.

This is the second voting rights order issued by the Roberts Court this week. On Wednesday the court allowed changes to North Carolina’s voting laws to go into effect, blocking an earlier order by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. In that case the Fourth Circuit overturned a trial court decision that allowed restrictions on same-day voter registration and out-of-precinct voting to take effect.

In an unrelated case, a federal trial court in Texas blocked that state’s voter ID law, ruling that the state intentionally discriminated against Black and Latino voters in adopting the law.

Thursday’s order blocking Wisconsin’s voter ID requirements will remain in effect while a petition for review of the Seventh Circuit decision is filed and the Roberts Court considers taking the case.