Second judge strikes down voter ID law

MADISON (AP) -- A second Wisconsin judge struck down the state's voter identification law on Monday, less than a week after another judge temporarily stopped it.

In an eight-page ruling Monday, Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess issued a permanent injunction calling the law unconstitutional because its requirements abridge the right to vote.

The ruling complicates plans by state board of election officials to have the voter ID law in effect for the April 3 presidential primary.

The lawsuit was filed last year by the League of Women Voters. The group's attorney, Susan Crawford, said she is pleased with the ruling. "This is a great day for the citizens of Wisconsin,'' she said. "It emphasizes that the right to vote is fundamental and cannot be infringed by the Legislature."

Mary Kae Nelson with the League of Women Voters says voting is a right and not a privilege. "What the League's lawsuit says is the Voter ID Law creates a third group of citizens who would be disenfranchised and not be able to vote, because they lacked the appropriate ID," Nelson said.

Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has said he will appeal this ruling.

On Governor Scott Walker's Facebook page, his staff wrote: "Another Dane County judge ruled to block Voter ID. It's a shame activist Dane County judges continue to stand in the way of common sense."

Walker said Monday he believes Voter ID will ultimately withstand the court challenges. "The thing about (Voter ID) is, it's the most common sense piece of legislation you can have. In our society, you have to show voter ID in the city of Milwaukee to check out a library book. You have to show it in this state if you want public assistance. I think it protects the integrity of every single vote in this state," Walker said.

A different judge in a separate case last week granted a temporary injunction against the law taking effect for the primary. Attorneys for the state have requested to delay that order. That order was in response to lawsuits filed by the NAACP and Voces de la Frontera.

"We feel that anything that contributes to the demise of this law is positive," Richard Saks, attorney for the NAACP said.

There are four lawsuits challenging the law, which was passed last spring. Supporters say it helps prevent voter fraud. Opponents counter there are few documented cases of wrongdoing. Judge Niess said in his ruling: "Voter fraud is no more poisonous to our democracy than voter suppression. They are two heads on the same monster.

Ed Fallone, an associate law professor at Marquette University predicts these two injunction cases will be consolidated before they reach the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which will ultimately rule on the Voter ID Law. "Under the normal process, it would be several months (before the cases reach the Supreme Court). The question is, whether the parties will ask for a more expedited process, and whether the courts will go along with it," Fallone said.

Fallone says for the most part, Voter ID laws have been upheld by state supreme courts. However, recently, Missouri struck down its Voter ID Law and Monday, March 12th, the U.S. Department of Justice blocked a Voter ID Law in Texas.

As things stand, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board says pending appeal, the Voter ID Law will not be in effect for the April 3rd presidential primary election.