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08

By Wendy Underhill

In life, nothing is certain except death and taxes. With voter ID, nothing is certain except court challenges and media attention. Here are the latest actions in the courts:

  • Kansas: On April 24, a U.S. district judge dismissed a challenge to Kansas’ voter ID law. The plaintiffs asked that it be dropped. The law was enacted in 2011 and implemented in 2012.
  • Wisconsin: On April 29, a federal judge struck down Wisconsin's voter ID law, enacted in 2011. The law has not gone into effect yet; it was blocked by a state court in an earlier decision—a decision that is on appeal. An appeal of the federal ruling is likely, too.
  • *Pennsylvania: On April 28, a Pennsylvania judge denied a motion to reconsider his January decision that struck down Pennsylvania’s 2012 voter ID law. Just as in Wisconsin, the law was not in effect, so this ruling maintains the status quo. Attorneys for the commonwealth have 30 days to file an appeal with the state Supreme Court.
  • Arkansas: Also on April 28, the Arkansas Supreme Court stayed a judge's four-days-old ruling that would have struck down Arkansas' voter ID law, enacted in 2013. The voter ID requirement will be in force for the May 20 primary; whether it will be in place for the November election is up in the air. A separate case was filed in April by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Arkansas Public Law Center.   

Kansas, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Arkansas are not alone in facing challenges to strict voter ID requirements. Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, and Tennessee have all faced challenges in the past; cases in North Carolina and Texas are still pending. For details and outcomes, look at ElectionLaw@Moritz, a database of major election-related cases, including most of those relevant to voter ID.

While litigation is commonplace for strict voter ID laws, Virginia and Mississippi have moved forward without court engagement. In Mississippi, citizens approved a 2011 ballot measure to establish voter ID requirements. The legislature followed up with enabling legislation in 2012. The new law will be in place for the primary on June 3, and an award-winning TV ad campaign is in place to educate voters about the new requirement.

*UpdatePennsylvania’s governor announced on May 8 that he will not appeal the ruling. The current status –a voter’s signature is compared to a signature on file—is the law of the commonwealth (until or unless legislators take the matter up again).  

Wendy Underhill covers election policy for NCSL.

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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.

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