Full Federal Appeals Court Won’t Reconsider Voter ID Case

Denial Of En Banc Session Means Voter ID Law Will Likely Be In Effect For November Election

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Above, the Dirksen Federal Building in downtown Chicago. Photo: Timothy Brown (CC-BY).

​A federal appeals court in Chicago won’t reconsider a ruling that reinstated Wisconsin’s voter ID law, meaning the law will likely be in effect for the November election.

Judges on the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals split 5 to 5 on whether to rehear the case. Among those who wanted rehear the case were three judges appointed by Democrats and two by Republicans. All five who voted against rehearing the case were appointed by Republicans.

A three-judge panel reinstated the law on Sept. 12, just hours after hearing oral arguments in the case. That panel found that Wisconsin’s vote ID law was substantially similar to Indiana’s, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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The American Civil Liberties Union and other plaintiffs asked the full court to reconsider that case, saying that no court had ever reinstated an ID law this close to an election. The state Justice Department, which defended the law in court, said halting the law again would “ping pong” voters and poll workers.

The ACLU issued a statement saying it was evaluating its next step. Lawyers hinted last week that they may yet appeal Wisconsin’s case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

University of California-Irvine Election Law Expert Rick Hasen said the Supreme Court is already considering whether to hear an Ohio case based on the federal Voting Rights Act.

“With these issues already before the court, I don’t know that the plaintiffs have much to lose by trying to get the Supreme Court involved,”said Hasen.

He also said that timing could be a critical factor in the court’s decision.

“The longer the law stays like this, I think the harder it is to convince the Supreme Court that change needs to be made again,” said Hasen.

A spokesperson for Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, who defended the voter ID law, had no comment on the ruling.

Among the judges on the 7th Circuit who wanted to rehear this case was Judge Richard Posner, a Reagan appointee who wrote the 2007 appeals court ruling that upheld Indiana’s voter ID law. Posner has since signaled a possible change of heart on the issue, and while it would not change the outcome he could still write an opinion on why he wanted to rehear this case.

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