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Ruling on Wisconsin student voter ID case would cause ‘chaos’ before election, judge says

Brittany Jordan

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A federal judge in Wisconsin said Wednesday that he won’t make a determination on a lawsuit seeking to ease restrictions on the use of college student IDs during the voting process prior to the 2020 presidential election.

Election reform group Common Cause Wisconsin is attempting to unwind a Republican-backed state law that says college IDs can only be used as a form of voter ID if they display a valid issuance and expiration date. But U.S. District Judge James Peterson said any court decision that altered voting rules so close to this year’s election would risk causing “chaos and confusion” for voters.

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“If the court were to issue an order changing the status quo now, it would leave the (Elections) Commission and municipal clerks with little time to issue new guidance and retrain staff,” Peterson said. “The nearly inevitable appeal would mean weeks of uncertainty as the case was reviewed by the court of appeals and possibly the Supreme Court.”

Peterson canceled a hearing on the case that was scheduled to take place Thursday. The judge noted that a ruling on short notice would “lull student voters into complacency” and potentially impact their ability to participate in the election process.

Under current Wisconsin law, college student IDs must have an expiration date that is no more than two years apart from its issuance date, as well as a valid signature. Common Cause argued the law is unconstitutional and noted that Wisconsin is the only state that allows college student IDs for voter identification to impose a time restriction on their use.

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Wisconsin is expected to be a key battleground state during the 2020 presidential election, with 10 electoral votes on the line.

Earlier this month, a Marquette Law School poll gave Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden a slight edge over President Trump among Wisconsin voters. According to the poll, 47 percent of respondents said they would vote for the former vice president and 43 percent said they supported the president. Trump carried Wisconsin in his 2016 election bid against then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

In a separate development Wednesday, the Wisconsin Legislature appealed a court ruling that allowed absentee ballots to be counted for up to six days after the Nov. 3 general election.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Brittany Jordan is an award-winning journalist who reports on breaking news in the U.S. and globally for the Federal Inquirer. Prior to her position at the Federal Inquirer, she was a general assignment features reporter for Newsweek, where she wrote about technology, politics, government news and important global events around the world. Her work has also appeared in the Washington Post, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Toronto Star, Frederick News-Post, West Hawaii Today, the Miami Herald, and more. Brittany enjoys food, travel, photography, and hoarding notebooks and journals. Her goal is to do more longform features journalism, narrative writing and documentary work, and to one day write a successful novel and screenplay.

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