MILWAUKEE — The Wisconsin Supreme Court said Thursday it wouldn’t hear challenges to the state’s voter ID law until an appeals court hears the cases, a setback for Republicans who wanted voters to have to show a photo ID to vote in November’s election.
The high court’s decision means it’s highly doubtful that the photo ID requirement will be reinstated in time for the Nov. 6 election.
Republicans passed a bill last year that requires voters to show photo ID, but parts of it were put on hold after two Dane County judges said the law impairs the right to vote.
Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen asked the state Supreme Court last month to overturn the rulings. Had the court done so, the law might have been in place by Nov. 6, the date of the presidential election and a U.S. Senate race pitting Republican Tommy Thompson against Democrat Tammy Baldwin.
The Supreme Court refused in April to hear the cases as requested by two separate state appeals courts and supported by Van Hollen. Those courts asked that the cases be consolidated in order to speed resolution.
The high court on Thursday declined to consolidate the cases because it said not all the briefs had been filed in one of the cases.
The next step is for an appeals court to consider the cases. That process usually takes about 10 months, said attorney Lester Pines, whose client, the League of Women Voters, brought one of the cases.
Van Hollen agreed that the injunctions against voter ID would most likely be in effect for the upcoming election. He said he was disappointed the Supreme Court failed to stay the injunctions but said he wouldn’t give up the fight.
“Despite this setback, I continue to believe that the voter ID law is constitutional and I will continue the battle to have the law upheld,’’ he said in a statement.
Voter ID has become a hot issue around the country. Republicans say the measures would prevent voter fraud, while Democrats call the efforts a political ploy to suppress voters who may not have the proper identification, particularly affecting groups that typically vote Democratic.
Arguments over voter ID have been especially heated in Wisconsin and other states with competitive elections including Florida, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
The photo ID requirement was in effect for Wisconsin’s February primary and there were few reports of problems.