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Federal judge strikes down Wisconsin’s voter ID law; State plans appeal

Wisconsin's attorney general promises to appeal yesterday’s federal court ruling yesterday that struck down the state's photo ID law for voting.

District Judge Lynn Adelman of Milwaukee issued a 70-page decision in which he said there's virtually none of the voter fraud that Republicans claim the law is intended to stop.

He also said the 2011 voter ID law creates what's essentially a "license to vote," saying minorities are more likely to have a cost in time, bother or out-of-pocket expenses. Plaintiffs who include the American Civil Liberties Union said many minorities would have had to buy birth certificates to get their ID's.

Those groups praised the ruling, while Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos called on the state Senate to approve a modified voter ID bill his house passed last year. That measure allows people to vote without ID's if they publicly state that they're poor and could not get an ID without a fee or if they had religious objections to being photographed. Also, their votes would be singled out in recounts.

Senate GOP leader Scott Fitzgerald and Governor Scott Walker's office both said they were reviewing the decision and weighing their options about possibly bringing the Legislature back into session.

Adelman, a former state Senate Democrat, said he would quickly review any changes so they could take effect this fall if they're constitutional. To restore the original ID law, both the state and federal courts would have to uphold it. The state Supreme Court is expected to rule this summer on a similar legal challenge.

National implications

The federal court ruling could have implications nationally.

Dale Ho of the ACLU's voting rights project said yesterday's decision could be a "bellwether" as other federal judges review similar voter ID laws in North Carolina and Texas.

Wisconsin was among a wave of states passing photo ID requirements in 2011 soon after Republicans nailed down majorities in a number of state capitals.

ACLU attorney Karyn Rotker said Judge Adelman recognized what her group showed during its trial -- that the voter ID law had a discriminatory effect on black and Hispanic voters.

The GOP still maintains photo ID's are needed to prevent the type of voter fraud Adelman said was virtually nonexistent.

GOP state Senator and U.S. House candidate Glenn Grothman called Adelman an "activist judge" who used "flawed logic" to strike down a law he personally disagrees with.

Vos said Adelman was still acting like the Democratic state senator he once was. Vos wants lawmakers to finalize an alternative voter ID requirement, which Adelman said he would review if it's passed soon enough to be used in the November elections.