- Views & Opinions
Federal court hears arguments in voter ID case
The American Civil Liberties Union went to court on Oct. 5 seeking to expand the type of identification accepted under Wisconsin’s controversial voter ID law.
The ACLU has challenged that ID law, but the measure has been upheld by the courts.
A case now before the U.S. District Court in Milwaukee focuses on bolstering access to the ballot by permitting more types of acceptable identification for voting, and by allowing people who have difficulty obtaining identification to vote by affidavit.
The ACLU is asking that the current list of acceptable identification, which it maintains is restrictive, be expanded to include IDs for veterans, IDs for students attending technical colleges and out-of-state driver’s licenses.
Said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, “Thousands of Wisconsinites face barriers to the polls due to the limited forms of ID mandated under the state’s strict voter ID law. It’s unconscionable that even veterans, who have so valiantly served our country, can’t use their government-issued IDs under this restrictive law. We’re asking the court to help eliminate these obstacles by allowing a broader range of commonsense options.”
Arguments took place on Oct. 5 at the federal court on East Wisconsin Avenue in Milwaukee before Judge Lynn Adelman.
The state told the judge the ACLU is asking the federal court to legislate.
The ACLU asked the judge to act before the February 2016 primaries.
Wisconsin’s voter ID law — enacted under Gov. Scott Walker and modeled after the anti-voter laws promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council — is considered one of the most restrictive in the nation.
The ACLU challenged the law, arguing that it violates the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, imposes an unconstitutional poll tax on eligible voters and also violates the Voting Rights Act.
The Supreme Court declined to hear the ACLU’s direct challenge to the law last spring. The ACLU then turned the focus to expanding access under the law.
Walker and other Republicans have defended the measure as necessary to combat election fraud, although no analysis shows fraud is a problem in the state.
Opponents of the measure maintain that the purpose is to make it more difficult for traditionally Democratic voters — older people, the poor, students and minority voters — to cast ballots because they are less likely to have state-mandated IDs — a Wisconsin driver’s license, a U.S. passport, naturalization certificates, college IDs that meet certain requirements and active-duty military IDs.
The case is Frank v. Walker.
A “Let Me Vote” rally was held on Oct. 2.
Editor’s note: This story will be updated.