LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) – A second Wisconsin judge has deemed the state's voter identification law unconstitutional.
The law requires all voters to present a state-issued photo ID at the polls, with the state arguing it will help prevent voter fraud.
But opponents, such as the NAACP and League of Women Voters, who both have ongoing suits against the law, contend it creates an unnecessary hardship for minority voters – who are less likely to possess valid identification.
They also argue the elderly and disabled may not have the necessary means of transportation to get to a state facility and obtain an ID card.
The Wisconsin decision from Dane County Circuit Judge David Flanagan comes days after arguments wrapped up in Texas regarding the dispute of a similar law.
Texas is subject to the United States Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibits 16 states, all with a history of racial discrimination, from altering voting laws without consulting with the federal government.
The U.S. Government has the right to prevent such changes if they are deemed to be racially motivated.
In Texas, the Department of Justice is challenging the voter ID law based on racial grounds, arguing the state's Republican party forced it through to try and prevent minorities from casting ballots that would presumably lean Democratic.
The DOJ also argued last week that, due to Texas' vast surface area, those without identification would be forced to drive up to 200 miles to the nearest state facility capable of issuing them one.
But Wisconsin is not covered under the voting rights act, and the law in the Badger State is being challenged as unconstitutional by the standards of Wisconsin, not the U.S. Constitution.
"The decision in the federal case is likely to have limited applicability here," said defense attorney Jim Kroner, of Moen Ehrsam & Kroner, S.C.
But Vicki Burke, the Chair of La Crosse County's Democratic Party, said the basics of the law are the same in both states.
"If it's upheld, I think it would have an effect to keep people at home and away from the polls," she said, arguing both laws are favored by Republicans to suppress the Democratic vote.
But Julian Bradley, the Chair of La Crosse County's Republicans, said the law is about ethics, not partisanship.
"We're strongly in favor of making sure everyone gets a chance to vote," Bradley said. "But you only get one."
Kroner said decisions on the Wisconsin appeals will likely not come until after the November election and he then expects the case to go to the State Supreme Court.
Kroner said if the Supreme Court rules the law constitutional, it could then be re-challenged by the NAACP and League of Women Voters in Federal Court and make it all the way up the United States Supreme Court.
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