Federal Judge Strikes Down Wisconsin Voter ID Law

Judge Lynn Adelman declared the law unconstitutional.

Posted: 04/29/2014 04:21 PM EDT

A federal judge in Milwaukee gave voting rights activists a victory when he struck down a Wisconsin law requiring voters to show a state-issued photo ID at the polls. U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman said that the law placed an unfair burden on poor and minority voters and also violates the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution.

Moreover, he rejected the argument made by many states pushing such laws that they prevent fraud at the ballot box.

"Virtually no voter impersonation occurs in Wisconsin,” he wrote in his ruling, “and it is exceedingly unlikely that voter impersonation will become a problem in Wisconsin in the foreseeable future."

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has pledged to appeal the decision although this is the second time the law, passed in 2011, has been declared unconstitutional. Adelman's decision ensures it likely won't be in place for the November elections.

"Wisconsin has long been recognized as the Selma of the North, and this case illustrates just why the Midwestern state bears this harrowing decision," said James Eichner, managing director for programs at the Advancement Project, which served as co-counsel on the case with other civil rights groups. "Wisconsin's discriminatory voter ID law is virtually undistinguishable from Jim Crow laws of earlier eras, which required poll taxes, property requirements, literacy tests and other contrived, racist measures designed to prevent African-Americans from voting."

Wisconsin's Department of Motor Vehicles will provide a free state ID to residents who present documents like a certified birth certificate, passport or Social Security card. Names must be spelled identically on each document and the documents cannot be expired.

"As Advancement Project demonstrated in court, the voter ID law placed burdens disproportionately on voters of color, from the time and financial costs of getting the underlying documents needed to obtain ID, to traveling to DMV offices with limited hours," said Penda D. Hair, the organization's co-director. "As the leading democracy in the world, it is our responsibility to ensure that states do not pass laws that hinder citizens’ inalienable right to vote.”

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