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Voter Photo ID: Elections Expert Discusses Possible Legal Outcome


The Wisconsin justice department must respond to a federal appeals court Tuesday, as to whether the full court should consider a challenge to photo ID.

Three of the 10 judges on the panel ruled this month that Wisconsin can require voters to present a government-issued photo ID at the polls on Nov. 4. Courts had blocked the law for two years.

Opponents insist there isn’t enough time for thousands of people to obtain an ID, before the election. They’re urging the full appeals court to block the photo ID requirement for the November elections. Doug Chapin says the full court may agree. He directs the Program for Excellence in Election Administration, at the University of Minnesota.

“Wisconsin is somewhat unusual in that this big of a change is happening this close to an election. That’s kind of what happened in Pennsylvania, the court there basically said on its face, we don’t have a problem with the state’s proposed voter ID rules, but the process that you have brought to us for making ID available to people who would not be able to vote without it is insufficient, and therefore we won’t let you put that requirement into place,” Chapin says.

In Wisconsin, the DMV processes ID cards. It’s decided to open on Saturday mornings, at two locations in the Milwaukee area, to accommodate voters. Opponents argue that, of the state’s 92 DMV offices, more than half are open only two days a week.

Chapin says some states have gone out of their way to help people get identification cards.

“Mississippi has bent over backwards to make ID available to citizens. They have roving vote mobiles that make IDs available, they have dramatically relaxed the documentation requirement to get an ID that’s valid, and their secretary of state, who’s a Republican, has been open about the reason they’re doing that was to forestall any kind of challenge or problem in the courts,” Chapin says.

The three-judge panel’s ruling earlier this month only said Wisconsin could enforce its voter ID law in November. The judges plan to rule later on the law’s constitutionality.

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