While the U.S. Supreme Court’s blocking of Wisconsin’s voter ID law Thursday means out-of-state students and residents without state driver’s licenses will no longer need special identification cards to vote in November, experts say the voter ID debate is likely far from over.
The law requiring a valid state-issued photo ID to cast a ballot has been the source of a complicated legal battle for years, but the 7th Court of Appeals ruled last month to end a three-year long ban on the law. The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that there was not enough time before the November election to fairly implement the change.
The Court’s majority did not give written explanation of their decision. Three conservative judges, Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented, arguing that they could not overturn an appeals court’s ruling unless that court had “demonstrably erred.”
ACLU associate director Molly Collins said she thinks the ruling will help make the polls more accessible on Nov. 4.
“What we hope is that it will make it easier for any eligible voter to get out and vote and that it will be less confusing and less disruptive to the election,” she said.
The one-page Supreme Court ruling was very specific, Collins said. The ruling only applies to this particular election and the feasibility of implementing photo ID in such a short amount of time, but did not discuss the constitutionality of such a law, she said.
Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause Wisconsin, said he believes this will continue to be an issue after this election. He said he does not believe this is the last the state and the nation have heard of voter ID by any means.
“I’m sure once Nov. 4 passes and the general election is over this battle will be joined again and it will be very fierce and very furious as it has been for years in Wisconsin,” Heck said.
Heck said as long as Republicans maintain the Legislature and the governorship they will most likely move to reinstate the voter ID law as soon as possible in 2015. He also said he thinks it is possible the U.S. Supreme Court will look at Wisconsin’s law again if it decides to take a case on voter ID.
Many in Madison believe the most recent decision will have an effect on voter turnout around the city. Ald. Scott Resnick, District 8, said the ruling will have an important impact in Wisconsin’s urban regions, like Madison and Milwaukee.
“I believe it’s going to have a pretty large impact on populations that may otherwise not have a picture form of identification. That would include students, individuals of lower socioeconomic status and seniors,” Resnick said.
UW has already given out specialized voter ID cards to some out-of-state students registered to vote in Wisconsin or students without a Wisconsin driver’s license. These IDs are no longer necessary to be able to vote in November’s election.
Collins said regardless of later decisions on voter ID, this ruling is important for Wisconsin’s voters and the fairness of the upcoming election.
“We’re just glad that for the November election there’s not going to be this unfeasible rush to implement a law that cannot be implemented in that time,” Collins said.