Politics

Wisconsin's Voter ID Law Goes on Trial

November 4, 2013
 

A closely watched federal trial is set to begin Monday over a Wisconsin law requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls. The outcome could set a precedent for legal challenges in dozens of states that have imposed or stiffened voter ID requirements in recent years.

The Wisconsin law passed in 2011 has never gone into effect because a judge handling a separate state lawsuit declared the measure unconstitutional soon after it was enacted. Advocates have pursued a federal trial while that decision and others are appealed.

Supporters maintain the Republican-backed law is needed to combat voter fraud, but opponents contend it's nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to disenfranchise poor and minority voters. Voter ID remains a contentious issue in many states. This year alone, 30 states considered legislation to introduce, strengthen or modify voter ID laws.

The trial starting Monday involves two federal lawsuits filed by civil rights groups, one of them brought on behalf of Bettye Jones, a 77-year-old black Brookfield woman who had difficulty voting because she had neither a state-issued driver's license nor a birth certificate needed to acquire one. Jones' daughter, Debra Crawford, spent months fighting with state officials to get her mother an acceptable ID.

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