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Wisconsin Supreme Court Wrong to Uphold Photo ID

Despite the ruling, the photo ID law will not be in effect because a federal judge blocked it earlier this year. Importantly, the state court changed a provision that would help voters get an ID for free.

July 31, 2014

Today, the Wisconsin State Supreme Court, in two separate cases, ruled the state’s photo ID law does not violate the state constitution, but changed a provision that would allow voters to get an ID for free.

The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law issued the following statement from Democracy Program Deputy Director Myrna Pérez:

“We are disappointed in today’s decision. A federal judge blocked this law in April because it places unconstitutional barriers on voting and makes it harder for certain citizens to cast ballots. Today’s decision does nothing to change the status of the law. The ID requirement will still not be in effect. Importantly, the state court changed the law to prohibit requiring voters to provide underlying documentation, such as a birth certificate, needed to get a free ID, if voters would have to pay for that documentation. We will be watching closely to see if the state follows through. In the 21st century, we need a voting system that works well for everyone, and tolerates discrimination against no one. Although we are disappointed in the court’s decision, we remain hopeful this law will never make it on the books.”

There are two key takeaways from today’s rulings: First, the court only held the photo ID law did not violate the state constitution. The law still cannot go into effect because it violates the U.S. Constitution and the federal Voting Rights Act. Second, the court made clear that access to the polls cannot depend on a voter’s ability to pay. The court is requiring the state to change the law so voters cannot be forced to pay for the documents they would need to get an ID.

This case is one of seven major voting cases the Brennan Center is watching this year. See all of our State of Voting in 2014 resources.

For more information, or to set up an interview, please contact Erik Opsal at or 646–292–8356.