People who have a hard time getting a photo ID would be able to vote with a receipt from the state Department of Motor Vehicles under a change approved by Gov. Scott Walker on Wednesday.
The emergency rule is set to take effect on Friday, days before a federal court will hear arguments in a lawsuit against the state's voter ID law brought by the liberal One Wisconsin Institute.
Under the emergency rule, the DMV will issue receipts to would-be voters who are in the process of obtaining a photo ID but aren't able to provide the necessary documents in time for an election. Voters will be able to cast ballots with those temporary receipts.
The change comes about a month after a federal court sent another case back to a district judge to determine whether the voter ID law applies to those who face significant burdens obtaining a photo ID.
Walker approved the law, which requires certain forms of photo identification to be shown at the polls in order to vote, in 2011. The American Civil Liberties Union and the National Law Center for Homelessness and Poverty filed a lawsuit that year challenging the law. The measure was in place for the February 2012 primary, but was then blocked by orders from judges in state and federal court.
U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman ruled in April 2014 that the ID requirement violated the U.S. Constitution and the federal Voting Rights Act. A three-judge federal panel then overturned Adelman's ruling.
The law was in place for the first time in the Feb. 16 spring primary, and then for the April 5 presidential primary election.
A three-judge federal panel found in April that the arguments being presented in a new challenge were different from the ones offered in 2014.
The judges noted that some voters might be told they can't obtain a photo ID without a Social Security card, only to find they can't receive a Social Security card without a photo ID. Other examples of significant hurdles included people whose birth certificates were destroyed in fires and people whose names don't match their birth certificates.
"Voter ID is about making it easier to vote and harder to cheat,” Walker said in a statement. “This action ensures an individual is still able to vote while they work to obtain documentation needed for a free voter ID card."
Walker didn't note whether the change is designed to help the law hold up in a federal trial that starts Monday.
“This is an administration that time and again has manipulated the rules on voting to gain partisan advantage, and the fact remains that legal voters have been and will be denied the franchise because of Gov. Walker and Republicans' voter ID requirement," said One Wisconsin Institute executive director Scot Ross in a statement. “Our legal counsel is reviewing the the emergency rule.”
The lawsuit, filed a year ago, contends that the voter ID requirement violates the Voting Rights Act and several portions of the U.S. Constitution.
"These measures were intended to burden, abridge, and deny, and have had and will have the effect of burdening, abridging, and denying, the voting rights of Wisconsinites generally and of African-American, Latino, young, and/or Democratic voters in Wisconsin in particular," the plantiffs' attorneys wrote.