Trying to make sense of all the different court rulings in Wisconsin on their partisan Photo ID voting laws? We'll try to unpack that for you.
The short version: Two different state trial courts found the GOP's Photo ID restriction on voting to be a violation of the state constitution's right to vote. A federal trial court (aka U.S. District Court) similarly found the law to be a violation of various parts of the U.S. Constitution.
The partisan WI state Supreme Court recently overturned the decisions in the two state cases --- literally re-writing the law as they did so (yes, actually legislating from the bench on behalf of Republicans). Wisconsin's Republican Governor Scott Walker, whom recent polls suggest is in a virtual dead heat with his Democratic challenger Mary Burke, then asked the federal appellate court to immediately overturn the U.S. District Court's injunction, which still blocks implementation of Wisconsin's Photo ID law.
Last week, the federal appellate court turned down Walker's request that it immediately overturn the federal injunction. Wisconsin election officials are, at present, still barred from enforcing the controversial law in the Badger State.
Specifically, last week, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeal issued an order [PDF] in which it refused an emergency stay of the federal court decision permanently enjoining Wisconsin's partisan Photo ID law prior to oral arguments on the merits of the state's federal appeal. Yes, the state not only appealed the adverse ruling in the two state cases (successfully), but they also appealed the initial federal court decision as well.
The permanent injunction in federal court was issued earlier this year by U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Adelman who, in a landmark 90-page decision and order [PDF] following a full trial, found that the Republican-enacted Photo ID law violated the U.S. Constitution and that it was "absolutely clear" that it "will prevent more legitimate votes from being cast than fraudulent votes."
Last month, following the issuance of the two decisions by the sharply divided and extraordinarily partisan Wisconsin Supreme Court which lifted the state court injunctions in two different state cases --- Milwaukee Branch of the NAACP vs. Walker [PDF] and League of Women Voters of Wisconsin v. Walker [PDF] --- Walker filed his Expedited Motion for a Stay Pending Appeal of the Permanent Injunction [PDF] in the federal appellate court.
In it's ruling last week, the 7th Circuit upheld the portion of the Wisconsin Supreme Court decisions which changed the law by directing the state's Department of Motor Vehicles to issue Photo ID cards sans requiring documents, such as birth certificates, for which the elector had previously been required to pay a fee to a government agency. That issue, however, is only one of the reasons why U.S. District Court Judge Adelman initially found the polling place Photo ID law constitutionally infirm. While we will have to await a final decision --- and even that decision will, no doubt, make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court eventually --- the current ruling issued last week suggests that the 7th Circuit did not see that one single issue as sufficient to immediately stay Judge Adelman's permanent injunction in federal court.
The 7th Circuit will hear oral arguments on September 12 --- less than two months prior to the November General Election. It is likely the 7th Circuit will expedite its decision. Stay tuned!