A U.S. appeals court was set to hear arguments Friday on whether a Wisconsin law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls should be reactivated in time for the November elections following a nearly three-year legal battle.
Attorneys for the state of Wisconsin's Justice Department will defend the law in front of a three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, while lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union and minority rights groups will speak against it.
Under the measure adopted in 2011, those arriving at polling stations must produce a government-issued ID with a photo to vote. In most cases, it would be a driver's license — though some other IDs are acceptable, including U.S. passports and military IDs.
Legal disputes over similar voter ID laws have arisen in nearly a dozen other states, including Pennsylvania and Texas. Republicans in Wisconsin and elsewhere who back the laws say they are designed to combat voter fraud. Critics say they are crafted to keep Democratic-leaning constituencies — such as minorities, poor people and immigrants — from voting.
The three judges set to handle the case are all Republican appointees. Former President Ronald Reagan appointed Frank Easterbrook in 1985, and former President George W. Bush appointed Diane Sykes in 2004 and John Tinder in 2007.
How they rule could influence how judges decide pending appeals in other districts, said Katherine Culliton-Gonzalez, of the civil rights group Advancement Project, which will have a lawyer arguing against the law at Friday's hearing. She characterized Wisconsin's law as especially strict compared to other voter ID laws, calling it "one of the worst" in the country.