- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 30, 2014

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - A sharply divided federal appeals court issued dueling opinions Tuesday on Wisconsin’s voter identification law, shedding light on the arguments of judges who pushed for and against allowing the requirement to take effect for the Nov. 4 election.

The opinions from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals do not change the fact that voters will have to present valid IDs at the polls on Nov. 4. Elections officials have been preparing for that since a three-judge panel of the court said on Sept. 12 the law could take effect.

Opponents of the law had asked for the full 10-member court to reconsider that decision. The court said on Friday that it was deadlocked 5-5 on whether to rehear the case, meaning it would not reconsider it.

But the judges did not explain their rationale until Tuesday.

The judges who were against the rehearing noted that the court didn’t order the state to implement the law, but rather said it could proceed if it wished.

“If seven weeks is too short, then state officials need not make any change; nothing has been imposed on them,” the judges wrote.

The state, which was represented by Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen’s Department of Justice, argued that it could implement the law. The Wisconsin state elections board asked the Legislature on Tuesday for permission to spend about $461,000 to educate voters about the law through a statewide television, radio and online campaign.

But opponents of the law, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Advancement Project, which filed the federal lawsuit to block it, said there was not enough time to ensure all voters have the proper ID before the election.

“It is simply impossible - as a matter of common sense and of logistics - that hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin’s voters will both learn about the need for photo identification and obtain the requisite identification in the next 36 days,” the five judges who argued for the rehearing wrote.

Those judges said the appeals court should have not have accepted the possibility that up to 10 percent of registered voters will be disenfranchised because they won’t have the proper ID required to vote.

The arguments by those judges demonstrate the harm that will result if the law is in effect for the Nov. 4 election, said ACLU attorney Larry Dupuis.

“The disenfranchisement that is inevitable would be a travesty of justice,” Dupuis said.

Attorneys challenging the law have said they are considering asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case.

Those in favor of rehearing the case were judges Diane Wood, Richard Posner, Ilana Rovner, Ann Claire Williams and David Hamilton. Wood and Williams were appointed by President Bill Clinton, Hamilton was appointed by President George W. Bush, Posner was appointed by President Ronald Reagan and Hamilton was appointed by President Barack Obama.

All five judges who voted against rehearing the case were appointed by Republicans. They are judges Frank Easterbrook, John Tinder, Diane Sykes, Joel Flaum and Michael Kanne.


Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sbauerAP

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