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MADISON, WI – On July 22, the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ), on behalf of the State of Wisconsin, appealed the preliminary injunction entered in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin on July 19, 2016, requiring the State to adopt an affidavit exception to Wisconsin’s voter identification law for the November 2016 election. Along with the appeal, DOJ also filed a motion in district court seeking a stay and moved the court to expedite its decision on its motion seeking the stay.
Under Wisconsin law, any eligible voter who applies for a free photo ID at the Wisconsin Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will receive such an ID for voting purposes within six days, which will be automatically renewed through the November election. Even after November, each eligible voter will continue to have a free photo ID unless the DMV makes a finding of fraud, ineligibility, or refusal to respond to repeated DMV inquires for six months, or the voter specifically requests cancellation of the DMV process. Under this robust process, any eligible Wisconsin voter can obtain a free photo ID for voting purposes using reasonable efforts, making the district court’s affidavit procedure entirely unnecessary.
In its motion seeking a stay, DOJ explained that the district court’s decision is contrary to binding precedent from the United States Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. The district court’s affidavit procedure creates a loophole in Wisconsin’s voter ID law, incorrectly informing voters that they can vote without a photo ID, even if they have not made any reasonable efforts to obtain such an ID. For instance, under the court’s ruling, if voters explain on their affidavit that they simply did not want to go to the DMV, those voters could still vote, despite the fact that the United States Supreme Court has rejected that specific argument. As the Supreme Court has held: “making a trip to the [D]MV, gathering the required documents, and posing for a photograph” is not a substantial burden on the right to vote. Rather, this is an entirely reasonable, modest requirement, which is properly designed to ensure the integrity of elections and public confidence in the fairness of the results.