Federal lawsuit challenges Wisconsin voter ID law

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December 13, 2011

By: Greg Janetka

Wisconsin

MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin: The ACLU, ACLU of Wisconsin and National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty filed a federal lawsuit today, alleging that the Wisconsin voter ID law passed earlier this year is unconstitutional and denies citizens of the right to vote.

Jon Sherman, an attorney with the ACLU Voting Rights Project, stated, “This lawsuit is the opening act in what will be a long struggle to undo the damage done to the right to vote by strict photo ID laws and other voter suppression measures. Across the nation, legislators are robbing countless American citizens of their fundamental right to vote, and in the process, undermining the very legitimacy of our democracy. We intend to redirect their attention to the Constitution.”[1]

Under the new law, citizens are required to provide a certain type of photo identification in order to vote. In a contentious debate over the bill, Democrats criticized the measure as an act of voter suppression and disenfranchisement, while Republicans argued the bill would help to reduce voter fraud. Gov. Scott Walker (R) pushed for the legislation, stating, "If you need an ID to buy cold medicine, it's reasonable to require it to vote."[2] Walker and members of the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board and the Department of Transportation are named as defendants in the suit.[3]

The suit alleges the law creates a poll tax and other obstacles that lead to a "severe and undue burden on the fundamental right to vote," violating the equal protection clauses of the 14th and 24th amendments of the U.S. Constitution.[4]

The suit was filed on behalf of 17 eligible voters who may be prohibited from voting under the law. The lead plaintiff is Ruthelle Frank of Brokaw. Born in 1927, Frank does not have a certified birth certificate, something required under the law in order to obtain the ID necessary to vote.[1]

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