2011 Wisconsin Act 23

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Act 23 of the 2011 Wisconsin State Legislature established a requirement for nearly all voters to present approved photo identification to cast a ballot.

Approved forms of identification[edit]

Section 1 of Act 23 specifies that only the following forms of photo identification are acceptable:[1]

  • A Wisconsin driver's license
  • An nondriver identification card issued by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation
  • Photo identification issued by the United States military
  • A United States passport
  • A United States naturalization certificate, issued not more than two years prior to the election
  • An unexpired receipt for a Wisconsin driver's license or nondriver identification card
  • A tribal identification card issued by a recognized Wisconsin Native American tribe
  • An unexpired identification card issued by an accredited Wisconsin college or university with a date of issuance, a date of expiration not later than two years after the date of issuance, the voter's signature, and further provided that the student also present proof of enrollment in said college or university


In July 2011, the Associated Press reported that the Scott Walker administration was planning to close some DMV locations that could issue identification under the voter ID law and increase the hours that other DMVs were available. The changes were made to comply with a requirement that every county have a DMV location open at least 20 hours per week. A Democratic legislator said that the closures would occur in primarily Democratic areas, while the expansions would occur in primarily Republican areas.[2] Two weeks later, the plan was replaced with a plan to maintain all existing DMV offices and create four new ones.[3]

In July 2011, the Department of Transportation (DOT) sent an internal memo instructing employees that an applicant for an ID card must pay the $28 fee unless the applicant requests that the ID be issued for free.[4] In September 2011, the DMV began posting signs instructing applicants seeking free "ID cards used for voting" to check the appropriate box on the application form.[5]

As initially implemented, an applicant for an identification card was required to present a birth certificate. The Division of Motor Vehicles maintains form MV3002, which allows identification cards to be issued without a birth certificate. The form is not mentioned in publicly available materials published by the DMV, and a high-ranking DMV official was unfamiliar with the form.[6] On September 2014, a procedure was implemented where applicants could supply birth information that would be verified with the State Vital Records Office for free.[7][8]

Legal challenges[edit]

Federal courts[edit]

On December 13, 2011, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed the lawsuit Frank v. Walker seeking to block the Act as a violation of the U.S. Constitution.[9] In April 2014, U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman issued a permanent injunction against the Act, ruling that the Act was unconstitutional as well as a violation of the Voting Rights Act.[10] Adelman said that it was not shown that voters without acceptable identification could obtain it under the Act and that the state failed to show evidence of recent voter impersonation fraud.[11] Adelman's ruling marked that first time that a voter ID law had been found to violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Adelman found a violation of Section 2 on the basis of racial minorities not only being more likely to lack acceptable identification, but also facing additional barriers to acquiring acceptable identification.[12]

The state appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and asked for a stay of the injunction.[13] On September 12, 2014, the same day oral arguments were held, a Seventh Circuit panel stayed Adelman's injunction, allowing the Act to immediately take effect, and Wisconsin officials announced plans to implement the Act for the November 2014 election.[14]

On October 9, 2014, the US Supreme court vacated the stay imposed by the Seventh Circuit, and thus temporarily barred the state from implementing the voter id law, due to the proximity of the upcoming general election and the fact that absentee ballots were sent out without any notation that proof of photo identification must be submitted.[15][16][17]

On March 23, 2015, the Supreme Court denied writ of certiorari, thus ruling in favor of the state of Wisconsin's new stricter voter ID law.[18][19]

State court[edit]


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ "Wis. DMV says closure decisions aren't final". Associated Press. 2011-07-22. Retrieved 21 September 2014. 
  3. ^ Roller, Emma (2011-08-04). "State puts brakes on plan to close DMV sites". Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 21 September 2014. 
  4. ^ Venegren, Jessica; Doherty, Shawn (2011-09-07). "Top DOT official tells staff not to mention free voter ID cards to the public — unless they ask". Capital Times. Retrieved 21 September 2014. 
  5. ^ Marley, Patrick (2011-09-07). "DMV employees told not to volunteer information on free IDs". Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 21 September 2014. 
  6. ^ Vielmetti, Bruce (2013-12-24). "Legal filings hone arguments over Wisconsin voter ID law". Journal Sentinel. 
  7. ^ Henzl, Ann-Elise (2014-09-15). "Voter ID: No Birth Certificate Needed to Apply for Wisconsin ID at DMV Office". WUWM. Retrieved 22 September 2014. 
  8. ^ Pitrof, Marge (2014-09-12). "Walker Approves New Rules for Obtaining Voter ID, While Court Considers Law's Status". WUWM. Retrieved 22 September 2014. 
  9. ^ Glauber, Bill (2011-12-14). "At 84, she lacks identification, but not will to fight voter ID law". Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 22 September 2014. 
  10. ^ "Federal judge rules Wisconsin voter ID law unconstitutional". Chicago Tribune. 2014-04-30. p. 14. 
  11. ^ Blake, Aaron (2014-04-30). "Judge Strikes down Wisconsin Voter ID law". The Washington Post. 
  12. ^ Hall, Dee J. (2014-04-30). "Little chance to fix voter ID law under court decision, Scott Walker says". McClatchy - Tribune Business News. 
  13. ^ DeFour, Matthew (2014-07-16). "Holder Wades into State Voter ID Battle". Wisconsin State Journal. p. A.3. 
  14. ^ Richmond, Todd; Tarm, Michael (2014-09-12). "Appeals Court Reinstates Wisconsin's Voter ID Law". Associated Press. Retrieved 22 September 2014. 
  15. ^ "High court blocks Wisconsin voter ID law". WPLG Local 10. 2014-10-09. Retrieved 2014-10-10. 
  16. ^ Liptak, Adam (October 9, 2014) - "Courts Strike Down Voter ID Laws in Wisconsin and Texas". The New York Times. Retrieved December 26, 2014.
  17. ^ Barnes, Robert (October 9, 2014) - "Supreme Court Blocks Wisconsin Voter ID Law". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 26, 2014.
  18. ^ SCOTUS (March 23, 2015). "ORDER LIST: 575 U.S.:CERTIORARI DENIED" (PDF). p. 3. Retrieved March 23, 2015. 
  19. ^ Meteor Blades (March 23, 2015). "Supreme Court lets strict Wisconsin voter ID law stand. Time for Democrats to ensure everyone has ID". DailyKos. Retrieved March 23, 2015.