High court blocks Wisconsin voter ID law

The U.S. Supreme Court for now has blocked Wisconsin from implementing its voter identification law.

After a federal appeals court upheld the law earlier this week, a coalition of private groups had asked the high court to intervene on an emergency basis, complaining the newly-implemented procedures could cause confusion, causing many voters to either not bother to cast a ballot or be mistakenly turned away at the polls.

The order issued Thursday evening was opposed by Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

\"It is particularly troubling that absentee ballots have been sent out without any notation that proof of photo identification must be submitted,\" said Alito.

The state had argued the law reduces voter fraud and promotes accurate record-keeping, saying that producing a government-issued photo identification, such as a driver's license, would not unduly inconvenience most citizens.

Wisconsin officials have not announced their next steps to comply with the high court's one-page order.

The issue could affect the gubernatorial race between incumbent Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who backs voter ID, and his Democratic challenger Mary Burke.

The Wisconsin cases are Frank v. Walker (14A376) and (14A352).

Meantime in Texas, a judge struck down that state's voter ID law, saying it would disenfranchise minority voters and therefore could not be implemented.

\"We are extremely pleased with today's ruling, a ruling that was compelled by the facts of this case. Following a two-week trial that included testimony from nearly 40 witnesses, Texas failed to identify a single instance of in-person voter fraud -- the purported justification for Texas's photo ID law,\" said Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the nation's leading civil rights law firm and a separate entity from the NAACP. \"The Court today effectively ruled that racial discrimination simply cannot spread to the ballot box.\"

The office of state Attorney General Greg Abbott said in a statement it would appeal \"and urge the Fifth Circuit (federal court) to resolve this matter quickly to avoid voter confusion in the upcoming election. The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that voter ID laws are constitutional so we are confident the Texas law will be upheld on appeal.\"

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder lauded both the Wisconsin and Texas decisions.

\"This Department will never yield in its commitment to protecting that most sacred of Americans' rights -- the right to vote,\" he said in a statement.

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