[JURIST] The Advancement Project [advocacy website] filed a lawsuit [text, PDF] Thursday on behalf of four other rights groups alleging that the new Wisconsin voter ID law, Wisconsin Act 23 [text, PDF], is unconstitutional because it is racially discriminatory. The new law states that all voters must present photo identification at the polls in order to vote in local, state or federal elections. The complaint, filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin [official website], claims that Act 23 violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act [text], which “prohibits drawing election districts in ways that improperly dilute minorities’ voting power.” Plaintiffs argue that:
This law will disproportionately injure African-American and Latino voters, who are much less likely than other members of the electorate to possess the required forms of identification and also face disproportionately greater burdens in obtaining such identification. As a result, African-Americans and Latinos are far more likely than other Wisconsin citizens to have their right to vote denied or abridged by Act 23.
Plaintiffs are asking the court to find the Act in violation of the Voting Rights Act and award legal fees. Similar lawsuits have also been filed by the American Civil Liberties Union [text] and the League of Women Voters [JURIST reports].
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. In June, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon [official website] vetoed [JURIST report] a law requiring persons to present photo identification at voting booth. In March, the Georgia Supreme Court [official website] upheld [JURIST report] a law requiring voters to present one of six government-issued photo identifications in order to vote. In contrast, a three-judge panel for the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] struck down [JURIST report] a portion of Arizona law requiring proof of citizenship for voter registration in October 2010.