Tag Archives: 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Judge orders probe of state’s failure to issue photo IDs to voters

A federal judge has ordered the state of Wisconsin to investigate reports that transportation workers are failing to issue temporary photo IDs for voting, as required by law.

U.S. District Judge James Peterson issued his order around the same time a civil liberties group filed a motion in a separate case demanding a federal appellate court invalidate voter ID requirements in Wisconsin because the state hasn’t abided by its pledge.

Under Wisconsin law, voters must show a form of government-approved photo identification at the polls. People who lack such identification can obtain free photo IDs at state Department of Transportation Division of Motor Vehicles field offices.

The agency in May announced that people who want IDs but lack the underlying supporting documents such as birth certificates could get a receipt valid for voting. The move was designed to blunt a pair of lawsuits alleging that voters who lack such documents face tough challenges in obtaining free photo IDs.

Peterson ruled in July that the DOT’s petition process to obtain the receipt was a “wretched failure” because it still left black and Hispanic citizens unable to obtain IDs. He ordered the state to quickly issue credentials valid for voting to anyone who enters the petition process but lack the necessary documents, including birth certificates.

The Nation published a story last week alleging that DMV workers at a field office told a man named Zack Moore that he couldn’t obtain a temporary ID because he lacked a birth certificate and that the way IDs were being handled was still up in the air. The story went on to say that Molly McGrath, the national campaign coordinator with VoteRiders, visited 10 DMV stations where employees gave people a wide range of answers about how long it would take to get an ID.

Moore tried to obtain his ID on Sept. 22. That was the same day Attorney General Brad Schimel filed an update with Peterson saying all DMV field staff had been trained to ensure anyone who fills out an application to enter the petition process will get an ID mailed to them within six days.

“These reports, if true, demonstrate that the state is not in compliance with this court’s … order, which requires the state to ‘promptly issue a credential valid as a voting ID to any person who enters (the petition process) or who has a petition pending,”” Peterson wrote.

He ordered the state to investigate and report back to him by Oct. 7.

Transportation spokeswoman Patricia Mayers called the stories of problems at the DMV offices “concerning and … not consistent with DMV protocol.” She said the agency has already launched an investigation and will report its findings to Peterson, as ordered.

“DMV remains committed to working with all eligible voters to ensure they receive free identification, as required for voting,” she wrote in an email.

Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a motion in a separate voter ID challenge before the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The motion alleges that the DOT isn’t issuing voting credentials to people in the petition process and has violated its promise that anyone who goes to the DMV for photo IDs will get an ID with whatever documents they possess.

The ACLU alleged that DMV workers have failed to tell applicants the petition process exists, that applicants have had to make multiple visits to DMV offices and that workers have incorrectly told people that in order to begin the petition process, they need proof of identity such as a social security card — which can’t be obtained without a photo ID. As many as 1,640 eligible voters in Milwaukee County lack both ID and a Social Security card, the ALCU alleged.

The group also claimed that people who present birth certificates with misspellings haven’t been allowed to enter the process and DMV field offices offer limited hours. The motion asks the court allow voters who lack photo IDs to cast ballots by affidavit or completely invalidate the voter ID law.

“People who have started (the petition process) are supposed to get a temporary ID but as we’re seeing on the ground that’s not happening,” ACLU attorney Sean Young said in a telephone interview. “DMV employees aren’t implementing their own procedures. DMV cannot be trusted to this correctly.”

The state Department of Justice is defending the voter ID law in the case. DOJ spokesman Johnny Koremenos said agency attorneys are reviewing the ACLU’s filing.

— By Todd Richmond, AP writer

Appeals court: Wisconsin abortion law is unconstitutional

In a ruling that Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin called “an important victory for Wisconsin women,” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit yesterday rejected a Wisconsin law requiring abortion providers to get admitting privileges at nearby hospitals is unconstitutional.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel’s 2–1 decision doesn’t put the question to rest. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed earlier this month to hear a challenge to a similar Texas law in a case that could settle the issue nationally.

The Wisconsin case centers on a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood and Affiliated Medical Services. The groups argue that the 2013 Republican-backed law amounts to an unconstitutional restriction on abortion.

The law’s supporters counter it ensures continuity of care if a woman developed complications from an abortion and needed to be hospitalized. But the lawsuit said the statute would force AMS’s clinic in Milwaukee to close because its doctors couldn’t get admitting privileges. That in turn would lead to longer waits at Planned Parenthood clinics. Therefore, the lawsuit maintained, the law amounts to an illegal restriction on abortions.

U.S. District Judge William Conley sided with the abortion providers in March, saying the law served no legitimate health interest. The Wisconsin Department of Justice later appealed to the 7th Circuit.

Writing for the 7th Circuit majority, Judge Richard Posner called the contention that the law would protect women’s health “nonexistent.” He said the law would put more women in danger by increasing the waiting times for abortions, which could push some procedures into the second trimester.

“What makes no sense is to abridge the constitutional right to abortion on the basis of spurious contentions regarding women’s health — and the abridgement challenged in this case would actually endanger women’s health,” he wrote.

Posner added that the law was obviously designed to close down abortion clinics, had nothing to do with women’s health and was a “clear flouting of Roe vs. Wade.”

He also said that a woman who experiences complications from an abortion will go to the nearest hospital, which will treat her regardless of whether her abortion doctor has admitting privileges there.

The medical community agrees that requiring admitting privileges does not increase patient safety, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin said in a statement to the press. Legal abortion is one of the safest medical procedures in the United States (and) admitting privileges do not hasten a patient’s care and are not required for any other medical procedure in Wisconsin, the group added.

The Wisconsin Medical Society joined the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecologists and the American Medical Association in a friend of the court brief explaining why admitting privileges do not enhance patient safety. The Wisconsin Hospital Association, the Wisconsin Public Health Association, the Wisconsin Academy of Family Physicians, the Wisconsin Association of Local Health Departments and Boards, and the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health all oppose Wisconsin’s admitting privileges statute.

“At Planned Parenthood, our top priority is patient safety. As the court affirmed, this law does nothing to enhance the health and safety of patients,” said Teri Huyck, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin. “The intention of this law was to put obstacles in the path of women seeking safe, legal abortion care in Wisconsin.”

In his ruling, Posner noted that the law required providers to obtain privileges within two days of Gov. Scott Walker signing it, even though the process typically takes months. If Conley hadn’t imposed a preliminary injunction, AMS’ Milwaukee clinic as well as Planned Parenthood’s Appleton facility would have had to close immediately because providers at both facilities lacked privileges without

“The legislature’s intention to impose the two-day deadline … is difficult to explain save as a method of preventing abortions that women have a constitutional right to obtain,” Posner wrote.

Judge David Manion was the lone dissenter, saying the law protects women’s health and doesn’t amount to an undue constitutional burden.

Eleven states have imposed similar admitting privilege requirements on abortion providers; courts have blocked the requirements in six states, including Wisconsin, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which supports legal access to abortion.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice, run by Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel, defended the law.

Van Hollen says he’ll abide by Supreme Court decision blocking photo ID for Nov. 4 elections

Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said that he’ll abide by the U.S. Supreme Court decision blocking implementation of the state’s voter ID law for the Nov. 4 election.

Van Hollen had said that he was looking at ways to get around that decision and have the voter ID requirement in place despite the Supreme Court. Republican leaders nationwide have put mandatory photo ID for voting at the top of their agenda, presumably because students and minorities, who tend to vote Democratic, are less likely to have it.

“I believe the voter ID law is constitutional, and nothing in the court’s order suggests otherwise,” Van Hollen said in a statement issued Oct. 9.  “Instead the court may have been concerned that even with the extraordinary efforts of the clerks, absentee ballots that were distributed before the 7th Circuit declared the law valid might not be counted. We will be exploring alternatives to address the court’s concern and have voter ID on Election Day.”

But spokeswoman Dana Brueck said Monday that after studying the issue, Van Hollen was no longer trying to implement the photo ID law.

Van Hollen’s decision to abide by the Supreme Court ruling comes after he waged a costly legal battle to maintain Wisconsin’s same-sex marriage ban. Despite dozens of rulings around the country finding such bans to be unconstitutional, Brueck told WiG that Van Hollen believed the law to be constitutional.

After spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to prevent gays from marrying, Van Hollen ultimately lost his legal war.

It is unclear what Van Hollen could have done after the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the voter ID law.

The Supreme Court stopped enforcement of the law after the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in September that the voter ID requirement could be put in place this year.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed an emergency request to the Supreme Court asking it to block the ruling ahead of the November election. The ACLU said state officials didn’t have time to get the law in place ahead of the Nov. 4 elections and predicted that confusion would result at the polls.

At the time that the 7th Circuit reinstated the law, 11,000 absentee ballots had already been cast.
The nation’s highest court ruled in favor of the ACLU, vacating the appeals court ruling pending further proceedings. Only Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented from the decision.

The voter photo identification law has been a political flashpoint since Republican legislators passed it in 2011. The law was in effect for the February 2012 primary but subsequent legal challenges have kept it on hold.