By TODD RICHMOND
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A federal appeals court should leave its decision allowing Wisconsin election officials to implement the state’s voter photo identification law alone, state Department of Justice attorneys argued Tuesday.
Changing course now, this close to the election and with preparations already underway to implement the law, would confuse election officials and voters, the attorneys wrote in a court filing in response to a request that the court reconsider its decision. The attorneys also argued that the vast majority of voters already have the proper ID.
“Plaintiffs are asking this Court to pinball state and local election officials between enforcing and not enforcing the law with an election on the horizon,” they wrote in their brief. “Voters would get the pinball treatment, too.”
Republican legislators passed a law in 2011 requiring all voters to show government-issued photo identification at the polls. The GOP said the measure will help cut down on election fraud. Democrats have countered that no widespread fraud exists in the state and the law is really designed to prevent Democratic-leaning constituencies such as the poor and elderly who lack IDs from voting.
The law was in effect for the February 2012 primary, but the mandate had been dormant since then because of legal challenges. The state Supreme Court in July found the law was constitutional and a three-judge panel from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled earlier this month that the state could reinstate it as the court ponders a federal challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Advancement Project.
The ACLU and the Advancement Project last week asked the full 7th Circuit to reconsider the panel’s decision. The two groups argued that the reinstatement is a huge last-minute change ahead of the Nov. 4 election that will result in chaos and could prevent more than 300,000 people who lack photo ID from voting.
It’s unclear what the court might do next, although it rarely grants hearings in front of the full assembly of judges.
The liberal group One Wisconsin Institute filed a brief with the 7th Circuit on Monday arguing Wisconsin transportation officials can’t possibly issue enough IDs to everyone who needs one to vote in the November election. The 7th Circuit refused to accept the brief on Tuesday. The court offered no explanation.Follow @trichmond1