Wisconsin’s voter ID law will stand after the U.S. Supreme Court turned down hearing a challenge of the law but Attorney General Brad Schimel won’t implement the requirement for the April 7 election.
The nation’s highest court on Monday declined to hear an appeal filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. Wisconsin now joins seven other states with strict Voter ID laws, requiring a driver’s license, ID card or a passport before a ballot can be cast.
Republicans, who pushed for the legislation, saying it would prevent voter fraud, are applauding the action. The law was passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Scott Walker in 2011, but since then has been mired in court battles.
Schimel, a Republican, said the state’s legal team did an “outstanding job” defending the law from the trial court to the U.S. Supreme Court. He made the decision to delay voter ID requirements for the April elections because absentee ballots had already been sent out.
“The voter ID law will be in place for future elections-this decision is final,” Schimel said in a statement on March 23.
On Monday, Democrats voiced their disappointment over the Supreme Court’s dismissal of the challenge to the law. They’ve contended that the law was an attempt to erode voting rights and make it harder for citizens to come to the polls.
“This law will prevent Wisconsinites from participating fully in our democracy and will unfairly burden disadvantaged and minority voters in future elections,” said U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan. “Clearly, Gov. Scott Walker and Republicans in the state legislature want to choose their voters instead of allowing voters to choose them.”
The attorney general’s decision to hold off on implementing the law until after the April 7 election is a relief to county and municipal clerks, who barring any special elections, will have a year to prepare for the new procedures.
“This will give the GAB and clerks time to educate and train voters and election officials,” said Sun Prairie City Clerk Hermann-Brown, a statewide authority on elections who has testified before state legislative panels regarding election law and its impact on municipal clerks. “We will also need to change most of our manuals, supplies and training materials which has a huge financial impact that wasn’t planned for in this budget.”
Dane County Clerk Scott McDonnell said the county is prepared for the new requirements and doesn’t anticipate additional costs for training and supplies. He said there was $50,000 budgeted for public service ads and videos, expected to run next year, to alert voters of the ID requirements.
“I think it will be hard for seniors and others, who don’t typically need photo IDs, to get one. So we hope to do some outreach next spring before the elections,” McDonnell said.
Columbia County Clerk Sue Moll said the next statewide election is Feb. 16, 2016, if other special elections aren’t scheduled.
She expects there will be no extra costs with the implementation of the Voter ID law in the county and said those heading to the ballot box will have plenty of time to prepare for the new requirements.
State election officials anticipate that there will be special elections in 2015 where photo ID will be required. Voters can find additional information on new voter ID requirements at www.gab.wi.gov.
Data collected by the National Conference of State Legislature show that voter ID became an issue during this decade after The Commission on Federal Election Reform made a bi-partisan recommendation voters to show IDs at the polls. Only 19 states don’t require documents to vote, according to 2014 data.