[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of Wisconsin and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty [advocacy websites] filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] Tuesday challenging Wisconsin’s new voter identification law [2011 Wisconsin Act 23]. The controversial law states that any qualified voter must present photo identification at the polls in order to vote in Wisconsin elections for local, state, or federal offices, or referenda. The plaintiffs claim that the law unconstitutionally deprives citizens of their right to vote. In the complaint, filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin [official website], plaintiffs argue:
The photo ID law imposes a severe and undue burden on the fundamental right to vote under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution; violates the Twenty-Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution as an unconstitutional poll tax; and violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment in arbitrarily refusing to accept certain identification documents.
Plaintiffs seek declaratory an injunctive relief. A similar lawsuit was filed in the Dane County Circuit Court [official website] in October by the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin [advocacy website].
There are now 31 US states [NCSL backgrounder] that require voters to present some form of ID at the polls, including 15 states that require photo ID, but the issue remains controversial. In August, South Carolina’s Senate Minority Caucus filed an objection [JURIST report] with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website], asking it to reject the state’s new voter identification law. The caucus argued that the law, which requires South Carolina residents to present a current government-issued ID, is too restrictive and may disenfranchise African American and elderly voters. The objection followed earlier attempts by several South Carolina civil rights groups [JURIST report] to prevent the law from being implemented. In October 2010, a three-judge panel for the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] struck down [JURIST report] a portion of an Arizona law requiring proof of citizenship for voter registration. The court held that the law, Proposition 200, was inconsistent with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA), which was passed with the intent of increasing voter registration and removing barriers to registration imposed by the states.