Federal judge blocks Wisconsin voter ID law

A federal judge in Milwaukee on Tuesday blocked a Wisconsin state law that would have required voters to show a photo identification when casting a ballot in November’s presidential election.

U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Adelman issued a preliminary ruling allowing voters who do not have photo identification to cast a ballot provided they sign an affidavit attesting to their identity. Voters without identification will have to list a reason they were unable to obtain a document, including lacking a birth certificate, work schedules or disability or illness.

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In the 44-page ruling, Adelman says there are likely thousands of qualified Wisconsin voters who do not have an identification. It would be “impossible or nearly impossible” for some of those voters to obtain a free identification card offered under Wisconsin’s 2011 voter ID law, he wrote.

“Although most voters in Wisconsin either possess qualifying ID or can easily obtain one, a safety net is needed for those voters who cannot obtain qualifying ID with reasonable effort,” Adelman wrote.

Adelman said the plaintiffs suing over the identification law were “very likely to succeed” in challenging the law’s constitutionality as the court case continues.

Sean Young, an attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, which led the lawsuit, called the ruling a major win.

“This ruling is a strong rebuke of the state’s efforts to limit access to the ballot box,” Young said in a statement. “It means that a failsafe will be in place in November for voters who have had difficulty obtaining ID.”

In a statement to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Wisconsin Attorney Brad Schimel (R), whose office defended the law, said he would review the ruling before deciding how to proceed.

Adelman had previously ruled the 2011 law was unconstitutional, though that ruling was overturned on appeal by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. The circuit court ruled that Wisconsin’s law was substantially similar to Indiana’s voter identification law, which the Supreme Court upheld in 2008.

The plaintiffs suing over the law asked Adelman to allow voters without an identification a path to casting a ballot. The affidavit, Adelman said, would suffice.

Wisconsin is one of 34 states that request or require a voter to show some form of identification at polling places, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. It is one of nine states with strict laws, which require voters without identification to take additional steps after Election Day to make certain their votes are counted.

To obtain a ballot, a Wisconsin voter must show one of eight types of identification, ranging from a Wisconsin driver’s license to a U.S. passport to identification cards issued by a college or the Veteran’s Health Administration. If the identification card does not show proof of residence, the voter must also show a document that proves where they live.