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Wisconsin appellate decisions typically take nine to 12 months, according to Lester Pines, an attorney with the League of Women Voters. The Department of Justice has asked the appeals panel to expedite the League's case, but Pines said even if it agrees to do so, he does not believe it would issue a ruling before the recall elections.
The Supreme Court has been deeply divided in pivotal cases in recent years, with conservatives claiming a 4-3 majority. Pines said Monday's rulings shows the justices do not always make decisions along ideological lines.
Two separate injunctions are currently blocking enforcement of Act 23 (aka AB 7), the voter ID law originally sponsored by Representative Jeffrey Stone and several others with ties to ALEC. A trial is underway before Dane County Circuit Court Judge David Flanagan.
3/13/12: Yesterday, Judge Niess issued a new ruling in the League of Women Voters case, a permanent injunction against Act 23 (aka AB 7). WBAY reporting. This follows his ruling last week on standing in the case, and Judge Flanagan’s ruling in another brought by the Milwaukee NAACP and Voces de la Frontera. FairVote’s Wisconsin legal memo is available here.
Last May, Wisconsin Governor and ALEC Alum Scott Walker signed Act 23 (aka AB 7), a voter ID law which also counts ALEC affiliated legislators among its sponsors. Groups challenging this legislation have a long road ahead of them, but this week they scored some important successes.
In the League of Women Voters case, Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess ruled on Monday that League President Melanie Ramey has standing as a plaintiff, and Governor Walker is the proper defendant.
The League had countered that whether Ramey herself was affected or not was beside the point because the requirement imposes an additional impediment to voting that is not specified in the state constitution.
"In this, she is surely correct," Niess wrote.
Further, he wrote, the League is in the best position to argue on behalf of voters who are "too physically infirm, mentally ill, impoverished, itinerant, elderly or simply neglectful to comply" but are still qualified voters under the state constitution.
"This is the same cohort of citizens that shows up in the circuit courts in increasing numbers, day in and day out, without lawyers, in foreclosure proceedings, collection actions and family matters," Niess wrote. "Who will advocate for them on these constitutional issues that affect their fundamental, inherent and constitutional right to vote, if not the plaintiffs, or entities like the plaintiffs?"
Walker, Niess wrote, is a proper defendant because under recent state law he has ultimate authority over rule-making by state agencies, including GAB.
In the case brought by the Milwaukee NAACP and Voces de la Frontera, Dane County Circuit Judge David Flanagan on Tuesday halted AB 7’s enforcement in the upcoming April 3 general election, pending trial.
Flanagan granted a temporary injunction (read the injunction here) ordering Walker and the GAB to "cease immediately any effort to enforce or implement the photo identification requirements" of the law, pending a trial on a permanent injunction scheduled before him on April 16.
"If no injunction is issued, a clearly improper impairment of a most vital element of our society will occur," Flanagan wrote. "The duty of the court is clear. The case has been made. Irreparable harm is likely to occur in the absence of an injunction."
The message from these judges for these and other pending challenges (including Advancement Project and ACLU) is clear: voter suppression is a serious issue, and attempts to implement it merit careful scrutiny from the judicial system.
For more information, check out The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by PFAW Foundation.