The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday blocked Wisconsin from implementing a strict voter ID law for this fall’s election. The decision was 6-3, with Justices Alito, Scalia, and Thomas dissenting.
The law had been upheld earlier this week by an appeals court decision.
Also Thursday night, a federal judge struck down Texas’s voter ID law.
In its brief order, the court didn’t explain its reasoning, but in the past it has blocked changes to election procedures that occurred in the immediate lead-up to voting, citing the potential for voter confusion.
That certainly was an issue in this case: As the challengers noted in legal filings, when an appeals court last month put the law in effect, some people had already voted absentee. Others live in counties that would not have a single ID-issuing offices open before the election.
An estimated 300,000 would-be Wisconsin voters—disproportionately blacks and Hispanics—lack the kind of ID the law requires.
The law was challenged under the Voting Rights Act as being racially discriminatory. The U.S. Justice Department had filed a brief in support of the voting rights groups who brought the case.
Responding to the high court’s action, Advancement Project Co-Director Penda D. Hair said in a statement, “We are pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision, which will once again allow all registered Wisconsin voters to cast their ballot in the upcoming election – regardless of whether or not they have a driver’s license or other state-issued photo ID.”
The news could offer a boost to Democrat Mary Burke, who is running for governor against Republican Scott Walker, the incumbent and a staunch backer of the ID law. Burke needs a strong turnout from minority voters to have a chance of winning.