In what some would view as a major shot in the arm for voter suppression, the U.S. Supreme Court refused on Monday to hear a major challenge to Wisconsin’s strict—some say discriminatory—voter ID laws, reports USA Today.
The decision is seen as a resounding victory to Republicans who favor tougher election laws, including Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, who is a likely presidential contender for 2016. Walker signed Wisconsin’s initial voter ID restrictions into law in 2011.
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Conversely, the SCOTUS decision is viewed as a significant setback for civil rights groups who contend the law could disenfranchise those more likely to not have the “proper” identification (and who tend to vote Democrat), including people of color, seniors, and students.
Wisconsin will become the eighth state with a strict photo identification law that allows no exceptions to a government-issued ID. The others are Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.
USA Today sketches out the background on Wisconsin’s Voter ID laws:
Wisconsin’s law was passed in 2011 and used in low-turnout primaries before being blocked by a state court. Last year, a federal district judge declared it unconstitutional because it disproportionately affected black and Hispanic residents.
A three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision in September, in part because of last-minute changes made by state officials to ease the burden on those lacking proper ID. The full appeals court deadlocked 5-5 on the issue, leaving the panel’s decision in place.
The Supreme Court blocked the law from taking effect in November to avoid confusion among voters. Before an election featuring judicial and local races slated for April 7, the American Civil Liberties Union filed an emergency motion Monday to block the photo ID requirement, and the state agreed to do so.
The law will be in effect for all elections after April 7.
Tuesday evening, Congressional Black Caucus Chairman G. K. Butterfield spoke out on the SCOTUS decision, saying the CBC was “deeply disappointed.” Last month, the Congressional affinity group filed an amicus brief in the case against Wisconsin’s law.
“The Congressional Black Caucus is deeply disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision to not hear the discriminatory Wisconsin voter ID case, which will disenfranchise thousands of African American voters,” Butterfield said in a statement. “The Wisconsin voter ID law places unnecessary burdens on African Americans under the guise of combatting voter fraud. These requirements seem benign but in application they will result in lower voter participation because many black voters lack the required identification. The CBC remains committed to confronting suppressive and discriminatory election schemes until the right to vote is unfettered and protected for all Americans.”
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