Following U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman’s decision to strike down Wisconsin’s restrictive voter ID law Tuesday, Senate leadership said it is unlikely the Legislature will come back into session to address the law before November’s elections.
As legislators returned to their districts to begin their re-election campaigns last month, Walker said he would possibly call lawmakers back to Madison for a special session in the event the voter ID laws were struck down.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, told the Wisconsin State Journal Wednesday that legislators would not be called back to Madison due to a lack of time.
“I don’t see [the Legislature] coming back. It’s not going to be resolved for the November election,” Fitzgerald said. “This pretty much ends the idea that we could come in and do something through a legislative effort that would make sense at this point.”
Larry Dupuis, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, said even if the state appeals the case, subsequently taking it to the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago as Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has indicated it will, it is unlikely that the law will be reinstated by election day.
Dupuis said the process to appeal is lengthy, and would require many months of preparation. Even if the process was expedited, he said it is unlikely Wisconsin will have a voter ID law back in place before November.
With about 300,000 Wisconsin voters without a valid form of ID, many of whom are low-income minority individuals, the law would have disenfranchised a significant portion of the Wisconsin population, Dupuis said.
Adelman ruled the law disproportionately affects Black and Latino voters despite being billed as a measure to prevent voter fraud, which he said was an almost nonexistent occurrence.
“Act 23 only tenuously serves the state’s interest in preventing voter fraud and protecting the integrity of the electoral process, and therefore the state’s interests do not justify the discriminatory result,” Adelman wrote in the decision.
The penalties for voter fraud in Wisconsin, a felony carrying a $10,000 fine and up to three years of imprisonment, far outweigh the benefits of a single vote in an election, Adelman said.
Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, who chairs the Senate elections committee, declared Adelman’s ruling “judicial activism.” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, also defended the voter ID law, saying the law was constitutional and he supports Van Hollen’s plans to appeal the decision.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has said voter ID is constitutional. We look forward to working with the governor and our colleagues in the Senate to do whatever it takes to ensure voter ID is in place as quickly as possible,” Vos said in a statement. “The integrity of our elections is too important to be caught up in the courts. Voter ID should be law in Wisconsin.”
The Wisconsin Supreme Court is currently also reviewing a challenge to the voter ID law. For the law to remain in place, it has to clear both the federal and state challenges.
Jay Heck, executive director at Common Cause Wisconsin, said recently approved legislation to limit early and weekend voting in Wisconsin will almost certainly be in place for November’s election. However, he said the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin was also potentially planning to bring forward a lawsuit to challenge the law.