By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen on Tuesday asked the state Supreme Court to overturn rulings blocking the state’s voter identification law from being in effect for the November presidential election.
Van Hollen asked the court to immediately stay earlier orders that put the law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls on hold. If the Supreme Court agrees, the law could be in place for the Nov. 6 presidential election. A U.S. Senate race pitting Republican Tommy Thompson against Democrat Tammy Baldwin is also on the ballot.
The Supreme Court in April refused without comment to hear the cases as requested by two separate state appeals courts and supported by Van Hollen. Those courts asked that the cases be consolidated in order to speed resolution.
Van Hollen said Tuesday there is a more complete court record now, as well as final orders from two judges, increasing the chances that the Supreme Court will agree to bypass the appeals courts and take it up.
“The Supreme Court has more information to work with now,” Van Hollen said. He said his request gives the court “another opportunity to bring prompt, clear resolution to the law and settle this matter in advance of the November elections. People in this state are very frustrated that a common sense law enacted by the Legislature and signed by the governor has been blocked.”
While the photo ID requirement was in effect for the state’s February primary, it was not required for the April presidential primary or Walker’s June recall election.
The rules shouldn’t be changed again so close to the general election, said Andrea Kaminski, executive director of the League of Women Voters, which filed one of the lawsuits challenging the law.
“It would be a grave error to change the rules again shortly before an election, especially for the purpose of reinstating an unconstitutional law which will make it extremely difficult or impossible for many qualified Wisconsin citizens to vote,” Kaminski said.
In two separate cases earlier this year judges ruled in favor of groups challenging the voter ID law passed in 2011 by the Republican-controlled state Legislature and signed by Gov. Scott Walker.
In March, Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess permanently blocked the law in a case brought by the League of Women Voters.
In July, Dane County Circuit Judge David Flanagan also issued a permanent injunction blocking the law, saying it creates a “substantial impairment of the right to vote” guaranteed by the state Constitution. That ruling came in a case brought by the Milwaukee branch of the NAACP and the immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera.
Lester Pines, attorney for the League of Women Voters, said he wasn’t surprised by Van Hollen’s request but he believes the law would not be in effect for the November election.
“This is a very serious constitutional challenge,” Pines said. “And I don’t expect the Wisconsin Supreme Court to do anything but give proper consideration to a challenge like this. It would be a very, very compressed time frame for the matter to be placed before the Supreme Court.”
Two other federal lawsuits in Milwaukee challenging the law are also pending. No trial dates for those cases have been set.
Voter ID continues to be a contentious issue nationwide, especially in a presidential election year. Critics of Wisconsin’s law said it was one of the strictest in the country. It requires that voters show either a state-issued ID card, valid driver’s license, U.S. passport, a student ID that expires within two years, or a military ID.
The law’s opponents say it will disenfranchise minority groups, the poor, students and senior citizens who lack the required photo identification and are more likely to vote Democratic. But supporters, including Van Hollen, said the state has a constitutionally protected interest in making sure there is no fraud at elections, even though documented cases of it are extremely rare.
Wisconsin Democratic Party spokesman Graeme Zielinski said Van Hollen was acting in a partisan way to benefit Republicans.
“This is a terrible law meant to suppress votes, making it harder for seniors, students and minorities to vote,” Zielinski said. “Van Hollen should be working to extend and expand the franchise — not see that it is limited to benefit craven political interests.”
The photo ID requirement was in effect for Wisconsin’s February primary and there were few reports of problems.