On Monday, a federal district court in Wisconsin rejected demands from local students, veterans, and low-income residents to allow them to use alternative forms of voter ID or have the ability to sign a sworn affadavit at the ballot box.
A lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union — representing a formerly homeless Army veteran, several technical college students, and an elderly voter who couldn’t access her birth certificate — argued that the strict voter ID law Gov. Scott Walker (R) signed in 2011 placed “an unjustified burden” on their ability to vote. While earlier lawsuits aimed at striking down the entire requirement as unconstitutional made it all the way to the Supreme Court before failing, this case sought only to force the state to add additional kinds of identification to its short list.
The ruling issued Monday dismisses this claim. Federal district judge Lynn Adelman writes, “The plaintiffs have not convinced me that there are a large number of people who do not possess Act 23-qualifying ID and who could not obtain one.” Responding to demands that the state accept photo IDs issued by the federal Department of Veterans Affairs, the judge says he won’t push for such an outcome because the state then might be forced to accept all “secure” forms of government ID. “That would produce a very long list,” Adelman writes. “The state had to draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable forms of ID somewhere.”
ACLU attorney Sean Young, who argued the case before the court in Milwaukee, disagrees, telling ThinkProgress: “Defenders of voter ID laws claim to care about verifying that voters are who they say they are. But these forms of ID do that. They’re all verified by a state or federal government office. Wisconsin hasn’t given a single good reason in litigation for excluding these forms of ID. I think it calls to question the real purpose of these voter ID laws.”
Monday’s decision is difficult news for its plaintiffs, including 56-year-old Army veteran Carl Ellis, who had to beg for bus money in order to make the multiple trips to the DMV to obtain an acceptable voter ID, because the state would not accept his veterans card.
Following the Monday ruling, ACLU Voting Rights Director Dale Ho says he is exploring “next steps” in his legal efforts “to dismantle these obstacles to voting.”
“It’s unconscionable that even veterans, who have so valiantly served our country, can’t use their government-issued IDs under this law,” he said in a statement. “People should have a broader range of common-sense options.”