A federal appeals court on Wednesday blocked a lower court’s effort to create exceptions to Wisconsin’s voter ID law, saying the lower court’s ruling would likely not be upheld upon appeal.
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals’ stay does not affect the law more broadly; it solely blocks the injunction from the district court from taking effect, pending appeal. It also does not speak to a separate district court ruling in another case challenging the law that was issued late last month.
At issue was a July 19 opinion by District Judge Lynn Adelman, who ordered that a system be put in place to allows voters to cast a ballot without an ID as long as they sign an affidavit saying they could not obtain a photo ID with “reasonable effort.”
But the three-judge panel of the appellate court determined that the solution put forth by Adelman is likely too lax. The affidavit would allow voters to check a box for why they were not able to obtain a photo ID, including simply “other.” The system would also prevent state officials from challenging voters’ stated reasons.
While the circuit court had previously ruled that accommodations to the law must be made for people who can’t get a photo ID despite “reasonable effort,” the judges found that Adelman’s solution didn’t require effort at all.
“Because the district court has not attempted to distinguish genuine difficulties of the kind our opinion mentioned, or any other variety of substantial obstacle to voting, from any given voter’s unwillingness to make the effort that the Supreme Court has held that a state can require, there is a substantial likelihood that the injunction will be reversed on appeal,” the panel of judges wrote.
It will take an actual judgment on the case’s appeal by the appellate court to overturn Adelman’s decision, but the court determined that allowing the order to take effect in the meantime would risk “disruption of the state’s electoral system in the interim” and “irreparable injury.”
It remains unclear how the law will be implemented in November’s election. Wisconsin’s primaries were Tuesday but were not affected by the ruling.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, hailed the ruling Wednesday.
“Voter ID is a reasonable measure to protect Wisconsin voters against cheating and make sure every vote counts,” Walker said in a statement. “Today’s decision to halt the injunction issued by Judge Adelman is a step in the right direction. … Voters in Wisconsin support voter ID, and our administration will continue to work to make it easy to vote and hard to cheat.”
Late last month, a separate case was decided by a different district court judge, James Peterson, who acknowledged that the broader Wisconsin law had already been upheld by the 7th Circuit Court. But he threw out portions of the law as unconstitutional, including limits on absentee voting, residency requirements and proof of citizenship requirements on dorm residency records.
That ruling was not affected by Wednesday’s order, but would be appealed to the same circuit court.