The U.S. Supreme Court Thursday night barred Wisconsin from enforcing its voter ID law.
The high court’s emergency order was only one paragraph long and gave no reason for its decision.
Wisconsin’s voter ID law has been contested in state and federal courts since it was enacted in 2011.
In April, a federal district court ruled the law unconstitutional and issued an injunction against implementing the law.
In September, a three-judge panel of the federal court of appeals upheld the voter ID law and stayed the district court’s injunction.
Earlier this month, the case went before the full appeals court of 10 judges. They deadlocked 5-5, so the three-judge panel’s decision to stay the injunction remained in effect.
The plaintiffs appealed the case to the Supreme Court and asked for an emergency order to stop implementation of Wisconsin’s voter ID law. They argued that implementing this law so close to the election would create confusion at the polls.
Six of the justices on the U.S. Supreme Court apparently agreed.
However, this latest federal court decision is probably not final.
The Supreme Court’s ruling concludes, “Should the petition for a writ of certiorari be denied, this order shall terminate automatically. In the event the petition for a writ of certiorari is granted, the order shall terminate upon the sending down of the judgment of this Court.”
That means the Supreme Court has vacated the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals’ stay of a federal district court’s permanent injunction of the law until it decides whether or not to hear the case.
If the Supreme Court does not hear the case, the circuit court’s decision holds. If it hears the case and rules in favor of the circuit court, the decision holds. If the circuit court’s decision holds, then voter ID will be required.
Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented from the Supreme Court’s majority opinion in this case.
They argued that the Supreme Court may not vacate a stay by a court of appeals unless that court clearly made a legal error.
However, the dissenting justices also noted that “There is a colorable basis for the Court’s decision due to the proximity of the upcoming general election. It is particularly troubling that absentee ballots have been sent out without any notation that proof of photo identification must be submitted.”
In a statement released Thursday night, state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollan said, “I believe the voter ID law is constitutional, and nothing in the Court’s order suggests otherwise. Instead, the Court may have been concerned that even with the extraordinary efforts of the clerks, absentee ballots that were distributed before the 7th Circuit declared the law valid might not be counted.
“We will be exploring alternatives to address the Court’s concern and have voter ID on election day.”