By TODD RICHMOND
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday to leave Wisconsin’s law requiring voters to present photo identification in place, saying changing course now will create confusion heading into the Nov. 4 elections.
The photo ID law has been a political flashpoint since Republicans passed it in 2011. The GOP argues the mandate will reduce election fraud; Democrats counter no widespread fraud exists and the law is really a ploy to make it more difficult for Democratic-leaning constituencies such as the poor, minorities and the elderly who lack photo identification to vote.
The law was in effect for the February 2012 primary but subsequent legal challenges put it on hold and it hasn’t been in play for any election since then.
One of the key challenges came from the American Civil Liberties Union and allied groups. They convinced a federal judge in Milwaukee to find the law unconstitutional this past April. Van Hollen didn’t quit, though; he asked the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to review the case.
A three-judge panel ruled last month the state can implement the law while it considered the merits of the case. State election officials have been scrambling to prepare to implement the law ahead of the Nov. 4 election.
The ACLU last week asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take emergency action to block the requirement, arguing the state doesn’t have enough time to prepare to administer the requirement before the polls open.
Attorneys with Van Hollen’s state Department of Justice filed a response Tuesday asking the court to deny the request. They wrote that media coverage of the law going back into effect has been widespread and state officials have been working diligently to get the mandate in place. Blocking it now would create chaos, they wrote.
“Plaintiffs are asking this Court to pinball state and local election officials between enforcing and not enforcing the law with November elections less than four weeks away. Voters would get the pinball treatment, too,” they wrote.
It’s unclear when or if the Supreme Court might act.
Meanwhile, the same three 7th Circuit judges ruled Monday that the law is constitutional. That move was all but certain given the judges had already given the state the go-ahead to put the mandate back in place.
The ACLU, the League of Latin American Citizens of Wisconsin and other opponents filed an emergency motion with the 7th Circuit on Tuesday asking it to halt that decision pending a request for a rehearing in front of the full court. The opponents reiterated their concerns that trying to put the law in place so quickly will sow confusion on Election Day.
All the legal maneuvering aside, unless the Supreme Court or 7th Circuit blocks the law Wisconsin voters will have to show photo IDs on Election Day.