A federal judge in Milwaukee struck down Wisconsin's voter identification law today, saying a requirement that voters show a state-issued photo ID at the polls imposes an unfair burden on poor and minority voters. US District Judge Lynn Adelman sided with opponents of the law, who argued that low-income and minority voters aren't as likely to have photo IDs or the documents needed to get them. Adelman said the law violated the US Constitution's guarantee of equal protection. An appeal is expected, but for now Adelman's decision invalidates Wisconsin's law and could set a precedent for similar legal challenges in Texas, North Carolina, and elsewhere.
At least 14 states require voters to show photo ID, and legislation in dozens of other states includes proposals to either introduce new voter ID laws or strengthen existing ones. Just last week, an Arkansas judge struck down that state's voter ID law; it is being appealed to the Arkansas Supreme Court. Wisconsin's Republican-led Legislature passed the photo ID requirement in 2011. Backers argued that requiring voters to show ID would cut down on voter fraud and boost public confidence in the integrity of the election process. Democrats countered that Republicans never produced evidence of any widespread fraud in Wisconsin, and said the mandate would keep poor people, immigrants and senior citizens from voting.