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Wisconsin Voter ID Law Still in Effect, Still Controversial

The state of Wisconsin has been struggling with its new voter ID law in recent weeks, after recordings and testimony showed that Department of Motor Vehicles workers were not following a state law that allows voters who do not have birth certificates to obtain free IDs. Today, despite calling DMV worker training "manifestly inadequate," a federal judge declined to suspend the law, instead ordering additional information to the public.

The state's voter ID law, which passed in 2011, allows voters who do not have a birth certificate to petition for an ID that allows them to vote. While the DMV is supposed to advise voters on how to enter this system, U.S. District Judge James Peterson found DMV workers routinely failed to do so, calling the system a "wretched failure."

Peterson declined to suspend the law, saying it was beyond his authority and would cause chaos because early and absentee voting is already under way. Instead, he opted to offer a "targeted remedy" to solve the problems with the petition system. He required the state to provide to the court by Friday a one-page information system for voters, which will be given to voters most likely to be impacted.

Additionally, the judge pledged "close court supervision of the reform process."

"It’s not going to be easy," he said. "It is a very complicated beast of a system that is really going to have to be carefully evaluated."

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ProPublica’s Electionland project covers problems that prevent eligible voters from casting their ballots during the 2020 elections. Our coalition of newsrooms around the country are investigating issues related to voter registration, pandemic-related changes to voting, the shift to vote-by-mail, cybersecurity, voter education, misinformation, and more.

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