Appeals court suspends ruling rejecting parts of Wisconsin voter ID law

(Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Wednesday suspended a July 19 ruling by a federal judge that struck down parts of Wisconsin’s voter ID law, the Department of Justice said.

Under the ruling by U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman, Wisconsin voters who did not have photo identification would have been able to vote in the Nov. 8 presidential election.

A Justice Department statement said that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit issued a stay concluding “both that the district court’s decision is likely to be reversed on appeal and that disruption of the state’s electoral system in the interim will cause irreparable injury.”

Wisconsin is one of several Republican-led states that have passed voter ID laws in recent years amid fear of fraudulent voting by illegal immigrants and others. The nine states with the strictest laws, insisting on state-issued photo identification for voters, include Texas, Virginia, Indiana and Georgia.

Republicans say voter ID laws are needed to prevent voter fraud. But Democrats say the laws are really intended to make it more difficult for poor African-Americans and Latinos, who skew Democratic in their politics, to vote.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a Republican, called Wednesday’s appeals court decision “a step in the right direction.”

“Voters in Wisconsin support voter ID, and our administration will continue to work to make it easy to vote and hard to cheat,” Walker said in a statement.

In a separate but related case, another federal judge on July 29 struck down a string of Wisconsin voting restrictions passed by the Republican-led legislature and ordered the state to revamp its voter identification rules, finding that they disenfranchised minority voters.

U.S. District Judge James Peterson, ruling in a legal challenge to the laws by two liberal groups, said he could not overturn the entire voter ID law because a federal appeals court had already found such restrictions to be constitutional.

Reporting by Eric Walsh; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Grant McCool