Wisconsin’s Supreme Court upheld a law Thursday that would require voters to show photo identification at the polls before voting in two separate cases challenging its constitutionality.
After the state legislature approved a measure requiring voters to show valid photo identification at the polls in 2011, the League of Women Voters and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People sued the state of Wisconsin, arguing the provision violates the section of Wisconsin’s constitution guaranteeing citizens 18 and older the right to vote, adding a new and specific voting requirement that they say disproportionately affects minority voters.
The state Supreme Court upheld the voter ID law in both suits.
“We can see no meaningful grounds on which to distinguish the photo identification requirement from the requirement that an elector state his or her full name and address in order to verify that it matches the registration list,” Justice Patience Roggensack wrote in the majority opinion in one of the cases. “Requiring a potential voter to identify himself or herself with government-issued photo identification does not destroy or impair the right to vote.”
Two justices dissented, including Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, who compared the cost of obtaining a state-issued photo ID to a poll tax in her dissenting opinion.
“Indeed the majority opinion … brings the specter of Jim Crow front and center,” Abrahamson wrote. “It invalidates costs incurred by a qualified Wisconsin voter to obtain an Act 23 photo ID as an illegal de facto poll tax.”
In a separate case in April, U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Adelman ruled the law was unconstitutional in a federal court, a decision state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has appealed. Thursday’s decision has no immediate effect as Wisconsin waits for the federal appeals court to rule on the law.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced Wednesday the U.S. Department of Justice filed an argument against Van Hollen, a move he hoped would protect the integrity of the voting process, according to a statement.
“These filings are necessary to confront the pernicious measures in Wisconsin and Ohio that would impose significant barriers to the most basic right of our democracy,” Holder said in the statement. “The Justice Department will never shrink from our responsibility to protect the voting rights of every eligible American.”
In the brief, U.S. district attorneys argue voter ID requirements violate the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act by having a disproportionate effect on minority voters, and therefore Adelman’s decision should not be overturned.
“[Adelman’s decision] reiterated that minorities in Wisconsin are more likely than whites to live in poverty and thus more likely to lack qualifying ID, and found that this disparity was attributable to the effects of racial discrimination in housing, employment, and education,” U.S. district attorneys wrote in the brief.
Gov. Scott Walker said in May he would not convene a special session of the state legislature to discuss a new version of the voter ID requirement, according to Wisconsin Public Radio.
Currently, Wisconsin voters are not required to show a photo ID at the polls to receive a ballot in either the Aug. 12 primary elections or the Nov. 4 general elections.