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Appeals court stays ruling on voter ID (UPDATE)

By Scott Bauer

Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A federal appeals court on Wednesday blocked a pathway meant to allow Wisconsin residents without the required photo identification to vote in the presidential election just three months away.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals put on hold a ruling by a federal judge in Milwaukee last month saying those having trouble getting the required photo ID could still cast a ballot by signing an affidavit affirming their identity.

The panel of three appeals court judges based in Chicago said U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman’s decision was likely to be reversed on appeal and the “disruption of the state’s electoral system in the interim will cause irreparable injury.”

The three judges who wrote the opinion — Frank Easterbrook, Diane Sykes and Michael Kanne — were all appointed by Republican presidents.

A second federal court ruling, creating a different path for people having trouble getting IDs, remains in effect. The appeals court has yet to rule on a request from Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel to also put that ruling on hold.

In that decision, people having trouble getting IDs would have to go to the state Division of Motor Vehicles to be issued credentials that would allow them to vote. They could not just show up at the polls and sign an affidavit, as would have been allowed under the ruling put on hold Wednesday.

The ruling also struck down a host of other Republican-backed laws limiting days and locations for early voting, saying they discriminated against minorities.

Wisconsin’s underlying law requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls remains in effect for the Nov. 8 presidential election and was not overturned in either federal court ruling. The issue is whether the small number of people who have trouble getting the required photo IDs can still vote without them.

Wisconsin Republican leaders who supported the photo ID law and fought against the lawsuits challenging it praised Wednesday’s ruling. Schimel said in a statement that he was pleased with the decision, and Gov. Scott Walker called it a “step in the right direction.”

“Voters in Wisconsin support voter ID, and our administration will continue to work to make it easy to vote and hard to cheat,” Walker said in a statement.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the National Law Center for Homelessness and Poverty asked for the injunction in June. ACLU attorney Sean Young said Wednesday’s decision “guarantees that vulnerable Wisconsin citizens are going to be disenfranchised in November.”

Young said the ACLU was evaluating its options.

Walker and Republican lawmakers put the voter ID mandate in place in 2011, contending it would combat voter fraud, even though nothing suggests widespread voter fraud exists in the state. Democrats decried the requirement as an attempt to disenfranchise liberal-leaning voters such as minorities who are more likely to lack IDs.

Court fights largely kept the law on hold until the 7th Circuit upheld it last year. It was in effect for the April presidential primary and Tuesday’s general election primary.

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