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Wisconsin Voter ID Cases

AARP Supports Voting Rights in Wisconsin

    

AARP Foundation Litigation attorneys filed AARP’s briefs in two challenges to a Wisconsin voter ID law.

Background

In 2011, the Wisconsin Legislature passed Act 23, which requires in-person voters to produce government-sanctioned photo identification. Voting rights organizations filed lawsuits to enjoin the law and two courts barred Act 23 from taking effect during the 2012 Presidential elections. One of the appeals courts overturned a ruling enjoining the law. That decision is headed for the state supreme court. The second appeals court has scheduled oral arguments for December 2013. AARP filed briefs in both cases. (A challenge to Act 23 also has been filed in federal court in Wisconsin. Thus far, AARP has not participated in that case.)

AARP’s friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the League of Women Voters argued that Act 23 conflicts with the Wisconsin Constitution by establishing voter qualifications contrary to constitutional language, and by arbitrarily disqualifying various categories of voters (those who vote in person versus those who vote absentee and therefore do not have to meet ID requirements). The brief pointed out that if implemented, the law will have a disproportionate impact on older voters and voters with disabilities, who may not have the requisite documents and may find it difficult if not impossible to travel to acquire those documents. The brief noted that older voters constitute a large and active share of the electorate and thus will be affected even more heavily than the rest of the population. Although the trial court issued an injunction and ordered the state to cease implementing the law while the case was pending; a state appellate panel overturned the injunction. The League of Women Voters has asked the state supreme court to review the case and reinstate the injunction against Act 23.

AARP also filed a brief supporting a challenge brought by the NAACP and various other voting rights organizations, who are challenging the voter ID law as imposing an undue burden on voters in violation of the Wisconsin constitution. As in the League of Women Voters friend-of-the-court brief, AARP’s brief points out that Act 23 imposes serious and disproportionate burdens on older voters. AARP details various ways Act 23 will impede the ability of older people to vote. For instance, it will extinguish rights of suffrage for those who lack a valid photo ID and are unable to obtain one. Older people who do not drive or do not travel may not have a need for, and therefore likely do not have driver’s licenses or passports. Further, older voters who need to obtain new IDs may not be able to travel to get underlying identification documents required even if those documents exist. In particular, older people born in other states, whose births were not recorded, or who were born in some states where births of minority children simply were not routinely recorded, will find it difficult if not impossible to get the requisite certified copies of birth certificates. The trial court in this case ruled on the merits in favor of Act 23 challengers, finding that the requirement “affects – indeed burdens – Ms. Ramsey’s fundamental right to vote by imposing an additional impediment to its exercise not specified in the Wisconsin Constitution.” That ruling also is on appeal and oral arguments will be held in mid December.

Case Status

League of Women Voters of Wisconsin v. Walker and NAACP v. Walker have been consolidated and are pending in the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

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Strengthening Law and Policy through
Legal Advocacy

Our legal advocacy initiatives  - conducted by AARP Foundation Litigation (AFL) - reflect more than 15 years of work in federal and state courts across the country. Through our efforts, we support the Foundation’s four priority areas: Hunger, Income, Housing and Isolation, and ensure that those 50 and older have a voice in the laws and policies that affect their daily lives.