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Supreme Court blocks Wisconsin voter ID law

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday night blocked Wisconsin’s voter ID law, ahead of a close reelection race for Gov. Scott Walker (R).

The court did not give any reasoning in a brief order overruling the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, which on Monday upheld the voter ID law. 

Three of the high court’s conservatives, Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, dissented. 

Laws requiring photo identification at the polls have been controversial across the country, with Republicans arguing they prevent voter fraud and Democrats saying they are attempts to discourage poor and minority people from voting. 

In a statement released late Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder hailed the move.

“We are also pleased that the Supreme Court has refused to allow Wisconsin to implement its own restrictive voter identification law. This Department will never yield in its commitment to protecting that most sacred of Americans’ rights — the right to vote.”

The 7th Circuit decision upholding the law on Monday argued that it resembled an Indiana law the Supreme Court upheld in 2008. 

In that 2008 case, the Court ruled 6-3, with three liberal justices in dissent, that the voter ID law served the interest of “protecting the integrity and reliability of the electoral process.”

The Supreme Court now could take on the issue once again if it accepts the Wisconsin case. 

Walker, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, is locked in a tough reelection race with Democratic businesswoman Mary Burke. The district court ruling in April struck down the law and argued it could have had a significant effect on the election. 

Citing testimony from an expert witness, the judge estimated that 300,000 people in Wisconsin lacked identification and note that the 2010 governor’s race was decided by less than that, around 125,000 votes. 

In a separate decision on Thursday night, a U.S. district court judge struck down Texas’s voter ID law, known as SB 14. 

“The Court holds that SB 14 creates an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote, has an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans, and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose,” Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos wrote. “The Court further holds that SB 14 constitutes an unconstitutional poll tax.”

Ramos was a 2011 appointee of President Obama.

Gov. Rick Perry signed the law in 2011 after a long battle with Democrats in the legislature. 

Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office said in a statement to The Associated Press that it would immediately appeal the ruling.

Abbott, a Republican, is running against Democrat Wendy Davis in November’s gubernatorial election.  

— This post was updated at 11:39 p.m.

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