Dane County Judge Temporarily Blocks Voter ID Law

A Dane County circuit court judge this week struck down Wisconsin’s controversial voter identification law. The law (2011 Wisconsin Act 23), passed in May 2011, requires that a person wishing to vote present proof of identification before they are given a ballot. The law was applied for the first time during the February 2012 primary elections. Proponents argue that it helps prevent voter fraud, while others say it negatively affects minorities’ ability to vote.

The trial in which it will be decided whether the law is unconstitutional is scheduled to begin on April 16, 2012. However, Dane County Judge David Flanagan issued a temporary injunction finding that the plaintiffs – the Milwaukee Branch of the NAACP and other groups – were likely to prevail on the merits and that the parties would suffer irreparable harm if the court did not issue the injunction. The Wisconsin Department of Justice has indicated that it will appeal the judge’s decision.

Judge Flanagan became the focus of the decision when it was revealed that he had signed a Gov. Scott Walker recall petition. Judge Flanagan did not divulge this information to the parties, nor did he recuse himself from the case. Critics argue that this is relevant because Gov. Walker is the named defendant in the lawsuit and that the parties should have been apprised of this information.

The Republican Party of Wisconsin has filed a judicial ethics complaint with the Wisconsin Judicial Commission against Judge Flanagan.

Hamilton Consulting will provide continuous updates as this lawsuit moves through the court system.