By Brendan O'Brien
MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - A Wisconsin Republican on Tuesday asked the state's highest court to reinstate a voter identification law before November, when Wisconsin could be one of the key states in the presidential election.
Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen petitioned the state Supreme Court to overrule two recent lower court decisions blocking Wisconsin's new voter identification law.
"People in this state are very frustrated that a common sense law enacted by the legislature and signed by the governor has been blocked," Van Hollen said. "It is time for our Supreme Court to take control of these cases."
A Marquette University Law School poll conducted in January showed 66 percent of those surveyed in Wisconsin favored the law, which requires residents to show a photo ID in order to vote.
The issue of proof of identification when voting has been hotly debated across the country in this presidential election year. Republicans argue proof of identification is needed to prevent fraud while Democrats say a higher proportion of minorities and the elderly do not have photo IDs and the laws could suppress voter turnout.
The Wisconsin measure, passed in 2011 by a Republican-controlled legislature, requires voters to present photo identification such as a driver's license at polling places for federal, state and local elections. Voters were required to show ID during a February primary before the court injunctions went into effect. The law was not enforced when Republican Governor Scott Walker survived a recall election in June, or for Wisconsin's August congressional primary.
"It would be a grave error to change the rules again shortly before an election, especially for the purpose of reinstating an unconstitutional law which will make it extremely difficult or impossible for many qualified Wisconsin citizens to vote," said Andrea Kaminski, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin Education Network, which opposes the law.
Wisconsin is expected to be a bellwether state in the presidential and Senate elections in November. Recent polls show President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney virtually tied in the state. Wisconsin's U.S. Senate race between former Republican Governor Tommy Thompson and Democratic congresswoman Tammy Baldwin is expected to play a role in determining majority control of the upper chamber.
Thirty states currently require voters to show some form of identification before voting, according to the National Council of State Legislatures. In 14 of those states, the identification must include a photo of the voter.
Two other legal challenges to the Wisconsin's voter ID law are pending in federal court.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg, Greg McCune and Bill Trott)