Wisconsin high court upholds public unions restrictions and voter ID requirements

Wisconsin high court upholds public unions restrictions and voter ID requirements

[JURIST] The Wisconsin Supreme Court [official website] on Thursday issued a pair of rulings limiting the ability of public sector employees to unionize and requiring voters to present identification. In a 5-2 decision [opinion, PDF] in Madison Teachers, Inc. v. Walker, the court upheld legislation known as the Budget Repair Bill or Act 10 [text, PDF], which significantly limits the collective bargaining rights of public sector employees. Act 10 was passed in 2011 with support from the executive office and Republican Gov. Scott Walker [official website]. A teachers union from Madison and a group of city employees from Milwaukee brought the suit and argued [Washington Post report] the law violates the their constitutional rights including free assembly and equal protection. Thursday’s ruling effectively ended [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report] litigation on Act 10. In League of Women Voters v. Walker, the court ruled [opinion, PDF] 4-3 in favor of a 2011 law, known as Act 23 [text, PDF], that requires state residents to present photo identification to vote. Act 23 was struck down [JURIST report] in April by the US District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. In order for the voter ID requirements to take effect [AP report] in time for November’s elections, the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit must overturn the District Court’s ruling. US Attorney General Eric Holder announced [press release] on Wednesday that the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] has filed amicus briefs in opposition to Act 23 with the Seventh Circuit, arguing that the law violates Section 2 of the Voter Rights Act [DOJ backgrounder] and the Fourteenth Amendment [text].

Debate over voter ID laws [JURIST backgrounder] has sparked controversy around the US. A total of 34 states have passed laws [NCSL backgrounder] requiring voters to show identification. In Ohio the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] filed a complaint [press release, PDF] on May 1 in NAACP v. Husted in federal court to put an end to a new state law that stops early voting opportunities. In January the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court [official website] upheld its earlier decision and struck down [JURIST report] Pennsylvania’s voter ID law.