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Supreme Court puts Wisconsin voter photo ID law on hold for 2014 election

October 24, 2014

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) made a decision to put the Wisconsin photo voter ID law on hold, meaning voters will not need to present a photo ID for the Nov. 4 elections.

“This does not mean the voter ID law is dead in Wisconsin, but for now the state is not going to enforce that for this election,” said political science Professor Neil Kraus. “It is a big deal because it shapes who is going to vote. When elections are as close as they are in many parts of the country a two or three percent turnout can make a difference.”

Right now, SCOTUS is deciding whether it will review a court challenge to the law after a ruling by the U.S. seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, Illinois, that the law would remain in effect through the Nov. 4 elections.

There are seven states with a strict photo ID law and eight more states with a nonstrict photo ID law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The difference between a strict policy and a non-strict policy is voters in a strict policy state must vote on a provisional ballot and also take additional steps while in a non-strict at least some voters will have an option to cast a ballot that will be counted without further steps.

Recently, Texas had a similar decision left up to SCOTUS where the vote was made to keep the photo ID law. Davida Alperin, a UWRF political science professor, said it is important to note that the vote for Wisconsin was just whether or not to hold off on the photo ID law for now not whether or not it should be kept moving forward.

“The logic was that it was so close to the election,” Alperin said.

Both Kraus and Alperin agreed that it’s not a random group of people affected by the photo ID law. People in poverty, minorities, and even students at universities, are one group of people affected by the law due to their mobility.

“The main concerns about it [photo ID law] are that it is solving a problem that does not really exist,” Alperin said. “The disadvantages of it outweigh any advantages as it would suppress voting.”

One area Alperin and Kraus disagreed on was the impact this decision will have on UWRF students for the upcoming election. When the law was originally planned to be in effect, the Division of Technology Services (DoTS) on campus were providing students with an option to obtain photo IDs free of charge.

“Even before this ruling very few of our students were requesting photo IDs from the university,” Kraus said.

Despite this, students who were not aware of the law could have been affected.

“I think that having another hurdle if the photo ID had been required would have reduced turnout,” Alperin said.

This past Monday, Alperin spoke to students on a political roundtable discussion about a couple of the big races they should be aware of and on some things they should know for the upcoming elections. She said it is important that students are registered to vote and know where they can vote.

“It is really important that people turnout to vote and become educated,” Alperin said. “The turnout for congressional and local elections when there is no presidential election tends to be much lower but those offices will have a big impact on students.”

UWRF sophomore Mitchell Devine is one student that will make sure to be at the polls come Nov. 4.

“I will be voting,” Devine said. “I want to make a difference and have some input on my government officials.”