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Wisconsin seeks stay as it appeals voter ID case

Wisconsin has told a U.S. judge that it will appeal his ruling barring the state from enforcing a voter-identification law as litigation over ballot access intensifies in the run-up to November’s elections.

Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen on Monday filed court papers asking U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman in Milwaukee to delay his April ruling blocking the law until the decision is reviewed by an appeals court in Chicago.

The measure, signed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker in 2011, would require Wisconsin voters to produce a government-issued ID before casting a ballot. Adelman permanently blocked the measure on April 29, concluding it burdens minorities’ right to vote.

Dozens of courtroom battles were fought ahead of the 2012 presidential election over voter-identification requirements passed by Republican-dominated legislatures since President Barack Obama’s 2008 victory. Supporters of the laws say they’re needed to prevent voter fraud. Opponents contend the measures are aimed at suppressing the votes of low-income people and the elderly who may be more inclined to vote for Democrats.

“By entering such an excessively broad injunction, the court aims to give itself the power of a second Wisconsin governor, equipped with the authority to judicially ‘veto’ future voter-ID laws that the Wisconsin Legislature might enact,” according to Van Hollen’s filing.

Similar challenges to voter-ID laws have succeeded elsewhere. Judges in Little Rock, Arkansas, and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, rejected their states’ laws on similar grounds. A Texas case is pending.

Adelman presided over a two-week trial last year. He found that the voter-ID requirement would fall most heavily on minority voters who were more likely to live in poverty and to have difficulty affording the necessary documents.

He barred the state “from conditioning a person’s access to a ballot, either in person or absentee, on that person’s presenting a form of photo identification.”

John Ulin, a lawyer for the voters who sued, likened the law to measures used to deter blacks from voting 50 years ago. Assistant Attorney General Clayton Kawski said the state wanted to prevent voter fraud.

“Picture IDs will deter voter-impersonation fraud, if not prevent it,” Kawski said in court.

At the trial, the state didn’t cite any instances of recent voter impersonation, Adelman said in his decision.

The cases are Frank v. Walker, 11-cv-1128, and League of United Latin American Citizens of Wisconsin v. Deininger, 12- cv-185, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Wisconsin (Milwaukee).

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