MADISON – A federal judge Wednesday said he wouldn’t soften Wisconsin’s voter ID law before the Nov. 3 presidential election.
The ruling came two days after a different judge loosened some of Wisconsin’s voting laws to make sure absentee ballots are counted this fall as people increasingly turn to that method of voting during the coronavirus pandemic.
The liberal group Common Cause sued last year over how the voter ID law is applied to college IDs, but the lawsuit was put on hold as an appeals court considered a separate case dealing with the state’s voting laws.
With the other case resolved this summer, Common Cause’s lawsuit is now proceeding. But U.S. District Judge James Peterson ruled Wednesday that he wouldn’t make any changes to the voter ID law before the presidential election because it is just six weeks away.
“If the court were to issue an order changing the status quo now, it would leave the (Wisconsin Elections) Commission and municipal clerks with little time to issue new guidance and retrain staff,” Peterson wrote. “The nearly inevitable appeal would mean weeks of uncertainty as the case was reviewed by the court of appeals and possibly the Supreme Court.”
Wisconsin’s voter ID law has more specific standards for college IDs than for driver’s licenses and other IDs that can be used for voting. Common Cause argues that is unfair.
Peterson noted in Wednesday’s decision that the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision in June that changed the rules for college IDs when they’re used to vote.
State law says that student IDs must not be expired and that students who use them must also present poll workers with separate proof of current enrollment. The appeals court changed that policy to say students did not have to show proof of enrollment if their IDs were unexpired and could use expired IDs if they had proof of enrollment.
Contact Patrick Marley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @patrickdmarley.