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ACLU Challenges Voter ID Law in Wisconsin

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Disenfranchisement of homeless voters is a key issue in the ACLU's challenge.

CREDIT: Flickr / Shawn McClung

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit earlier this week challenging the constitutionality of Wisconsin’s new voter identification law. Voter ID laws have become a hot-button issue, as a number of states have enacted photo identification requirements and narrowed the window for early voting.

“This lawsuit is the opening act in what will be a long struggle to undo the damage done to the right to vote by strict photo ID laws and other voter suppression measures,” said Jon Sherman, an attorney with the ACLU Voting Rights Project, in a statement. “Across the nation, legislators are robbing countless American citizens of their fundamental right to vote, and in the process, undermining the very legitimacy of our democracy. We intend to redirect their attention to the Constitution.”

The ACLU complaint [PDF] charges that Wisconsin voter ID requirements will violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, as well as establishing a poll tax in violation of the 24th and 14th amendments.

(Read More About Coter ID laws at Campus Progress.)

The ACLU filed a complaint in district court on behalf of 17 Wisconsin residents who are unable to vote under the new law. Those individuals include an 84-year-old female village board member who doesn’t have a birth certificate and an Army veteran living in a homeless shelter in Milwaukee.

Disenfranchisement of homeless voters is a key issue in the ACLU's challenge.

“Protecting homeless persons’ right to vote is crucial, since voting is one of the few ways that homeless individuals can impact the political process and make their voices heard,” said Heather Johnson, civil rights attorney at the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. “By limiting participation to Wisconsin residents with photo identification, this law effectively silences homeless persons’ voices.”

A report [PDF] by the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York School of Law estimated the laws and executive orders will create deterrents for more than five million eligible voters—many of them “young, minority, and low-income,” according to the researchers.

Earlier this week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said his agency is working to thoroughly investigate such laws to determine if they are legal. Read more about his important remarks here.

The ACLU has also submitted comment letters, intervened in court cases, or filed motions to intervene with similar laws in South Carolina, Texas, North Carolina, Alabama, Arizona, and Georgia. The ACLU ­is a non-profit based in New York City that works to defend Constitutional rights and civil liberties in the United States.

Jon Christian is a reporter with Campus Progress. Follow him on Twitter @Jon_Christian.

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