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CAMPAIGN '08: THE NOVEMBER ELECTIONS

Wisconsin attorney general's Voter ID lawsuit is thrown out

He lacks standing and should have filed a complaint with a state agency, the judge says. An appeal is planned.

October 24, 2008|Associated Press

MADISON, WIS. — A judge on Thursday threw out a lawsuit by Wisconsin's attorney general demanding that state elections officials confirm hundreds of thousands of voters' identities before election day.

Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi ruled that neither federal nor state law makes the checks that Atty. Gen. J.B. Van Hollen seeks a condition for voting. She said Van Hollen had no standing to sue and should have made a complaint to the state Government Accountability Board rather than going to court.

Van Hollen spokesman Kevin St. John said the state Department of Justice would appeal, perhaps directly to the state Supreme Court. The agency will continue to pursue the case beyond election day if it must because an accurate list of registered voters is crucial to future elections, he said.

Van Hollen, a Republican and co-chairman of GOP presidential candidate John McCain's Wisconsin campaign, argued that the federal Help America Vote Act requires the accountability board to check the names of everyone registered to vote since Jan. 1, 2006, against driver's license and Social Security data and remove any ineligible voters from the rolls.

The state Republican Party joined the lawsuit, asking that any nonmatches be red-flagged as needing identification at the polls.

The board says it couldn't get its cross-check software online until August, when preliminary runs revealed a 22% nonmatch rate. Most of those nonmatches resulted from typos or other innocuous differences between the databases, board staff said.

The board ordered local election clerks to cross-check only voters who register from Aug. 6 onward and let nonmatches vote without consequence.

The board argued, and the judge agreed, that the Help America Vote Act doesn't say what states should do with anyone whose information doesn't match.

Sumi said only the U.S. attorney general could bring a court order to enforce the federal voting act.

A similar case in Ohio resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court's rebuffing Ohio Republicans' efforts to force Ohio's election overseer -- a Democrat -- to give local election boards lists of 200,000 voters whose names didn't match other databases.

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