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Legal sparring continues over voter ID (UPDATE)

Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — With two special elections looming next month and one to fill a vacancy in the state Senate coming later this year, opponents of Wisconsin’s new voter identification law want a federal court to expand the number of IDs that voters can show at the polls.

The legal fight comes in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court last month rejecting a challenge to the law’s constitutionality.

The issues raised by the American Civil Liberties Union in the challenge to the law, passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by Gov. Scott Walker in 2011, remain unresolved. Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights project, said Monday that it’s unclear when the legal fight will end.

The ACLU wants the state to accept out-of-state driver’s licenses and photo identification cards issued both to veterans and to students at two-year technical colleges. It also wants voters without any of the required IDs to be allowed to sign an affidavit at the polls affirming their identity so they could vote immediately.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice objected in court filings Friday, saying the ACLU is asking the court to rewrite the law. U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman is expected to rule sometime after the ACLU’s deadline to respond on May 15.

Under the law, voters must show one of the following in order to vote: a Wisconsin driver’s license or state ID card, a U.S. passport, military ID card, college IDs meeting certain requirements, naturalization certificates or IDs issued by a Wisconsin-based American Indian tribe.

The state elections board is in the process of drafting an emergency rule that would allow for IDs issued by two-year technical colleges to be accepted. The voter ID law did not specify whether technical college IDs would be allowed.

The ACLU argues that since that rule is not yet in place and could be blocked either by the Legislature or governor, the court needs to act now to ensure that technical college IDs can be used. The state Department of Justice responded the issue will soon be moot because the emergency rule is expected to be in place before two special elections next month. There are school referendum votes in Bayfield and Walworth counties on May 19.

The voter ID law was in effect for one low-turnout primary in 2012 before legal challenges put it on hold. The state agreed not to enforce it in the just-completed April 7 primary, which was two weeks after the Supreme Court decided not to hear the challenge.

The next statewide general election where the voter ID law will be in place is the February 2016 spring primary.

Supporters of the voter ID law say it’s needed to ensure there is no voter fraud at the polls. But opponents say its true intent is to make it more difficult for older, poor and minority voters who tend to support Democrats and are more likely not to have the proper ID.

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