[This article now cross-published by Salon...]
Wisconsin's Republican Gov. Scott Walker notched a huge victory today at the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. The ruling could very well result in the controversial Governor's re-election this November --- at the expense of untold thousands of legally registered voters who may now not be able to vote at all this year.
This morning, a three-judge panel heard Walker's appeal to the federal ruling that previously struck down his Photo ID voting restriction law. By afternoon, almost immediately following the hearing, the three GOP-appointed federal judges (a Reagan appointee, and two George W. Bush appointees) restored the restrictive voting measure [PDF] in advance of the November general election.
"The state of Wisconsin may, if it wishes (and if it is appropriate under rules of state law), enforce the photo ID requirement in this November's elections," the unsigned two-page order reads.
Even before the ruling came down, reports from the courtroom earlier today had suggested that it wasn't looking good for those fighting for voting rights there, and that the judges might even order the previously struck-down law to be implemented before this year's mid-term elections, where Walker faces a neck-and-neck re-election contest with his Democratic opponent, Mary Burke.
Instituting the law at this late date, the plaintiffs argued, would cause extraordinary confusion. "I think it would be extremely irresponsible for a court to do something that would so change the landscape not only for the (state Division of Motor Vehicles) but for election officials," Larry Dupuis, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin told the Journal Sentinel after today's hearing.
UC Irvine election law professor Rick Hasen noted the same earlier today, before the ruling had come down, explaining why it would be "a very bad idea" to implement this law "just before the election."
Making matters worse, and more confusing for voters and elections officials, the WI GOP's Photo ID voting restriction covers absentee ballots as well as polling place voting, unlike most similar laws enacted by Republicans in other states, where only in-person voting is effected. But, according to the Journal-Sentinel (in a report now replaced online by an updated version on the court's late ruling), the fact that thousands of absentee ballots have already gone out to voters this year without an explanation on them that Photo ID needs to be supplied when they are returned, could result in even more disenfranchisement in the Badger State...