The United States Supreme Court this week declined to hear a case seeking to overturn Wisconsin’s voter ID law, which dissenters say is discriminatory in nature. The decision means that the measure goes into immediate effect.
Republican Gov. Scott Walker in 2011 enacted the law, which is among the most restrictive in the nation, voting rights activists say, requiring voters to produce one of a few specified forms of photo identification in order to vote.
The American Civil Liberties Union, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and the Advancement Project filed a complaint against the law, saying it violates the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause and the 24th and 14th amendments because it effectively imposes an undue burden on voters and also an unconstitutional poll tax on eligible voters. Additionally, the ACLU lawsuit claimed, the law violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which bans the use of voting practices that have a disparate negative impact on racial and language minorities. As the AFRO previously reported, research showed that more than 300,000 people—50 percent Latinos and African Americans compared to 17 percent Whites—lack the required government-issued ID.
The voter ID law was struck down by a federal trial court in April 2014, but that decision was overturned by the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. However, until this week, the law was held in abeyance while the Supreme Court considered whether to hear the case.
The Congressional Black Caucus, which filed an amicus brief in the case against Wisconsin’s restrictive voting law last month, and other voting rights advocates expressed dismay at the high court’s decision.
“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,” said Chairman G. K. Butterfield, D-N.C., 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.”
With voting—via absentee ballots and in-person early voting—already underway in an April 7 General Election in Wisconsin, the ACLU filed an emergency motion with a federal court to bar the state’s voter ID law from taking immediate effect.
“Although the Supreme Court has declined to take this case, it previously made clear that states may not impose new requirements for voting in the weeks before Election Day,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, in a statement. “The situation is even more compelling here because absentee ballots have already been mailed out for the April election, and early in-person voting has begun. Imposing a new restriction in the midst of an election will disenfranchise voters who have already cast their ballots. It is a recipe for disaster.”
Stating election officials later announced they would delay the law’s implementation until after the April election.