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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Supreme Court upholds Indiana voter ID law

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court, in a fractured decision, upheld an Indiana law Monday that requires voters show a photo ID issued by the federal or state government.

“States should have the ability to implement appropriate and constitutional steps to protect their electoral systems from fraud,” Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter said in response. “We can move forward in Indiana with a process that provides constitutional protections to its citizens protecting their vote from potential fraudulent activity.”

Indiana next votes in the May 6 primary that is expected to set a record for turnout in a presidential election year.

Richard L. Hasen, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and an expert on election law, called the decision a significant win for backers of voter identification laws.

“Although there was no majority opinion for the court,” said Hasen, who had supported the position of the challengers, “the upshot is going to be that most of these laws are going to be upheld for most people, leaving open the possibility of challenges for small groups of voters who face special burdens.”

Opponents had argued that the law, considered the toughest voter ID statute in the nation, places substantial practical and financial burdens on voters and is aimed at fixing a type of election fraud that rarely occurs.

The state said the law imposes minimal, if any, interference and increases public confidence in the integrity of the elections.

The court agreed. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices John Paul Stevens and Anthony Kennedy wrote that because Indiana’s cards are free, the inconvenience of getting one does not qualify as a substantial burden on most voters’ right to vote.

But Hasen said Steven’s opinion made clear that if a specific group of voters could show the law imposed unique burdens on them, they could challenge the law’s constitutionality.

Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, who sided with the majority for different reasons, did not recognize that opening.

Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter dissented.

Souter, along with Ginsburg, said the law “threatens to impose nontrivial burdens” on the voting rights of tends of thousands of citizens, a significant portion of which are likely to be deterred from voting.

“A state may not burden the right to vote merely by invoking abstract interests, be they legitimate or even compelling,” Souter wrote, “but must make a particular, factual showing that threats to its interests outweigh the particular impediments it has imposed.”

Although there’s no record of people impersonating others at the polls in Indiana, the state argued it could have been happening because Indiana has one of the most inflated voter registration lists in the country.

Breyer, who wrote his own dissent, said the law imposes a disproportionate burden upon voters without a driver’s license or other valid form of photo ID.

About half the states have some voter ID requirement. Seven states, including Indiana, ask for a photo ID although some will accept a signed affidavit instead. Indiana and Georgia both require the ID to be government-issued. Opponents said Indiana’s law is tougher because it’s harder to get the free ID.

Challengers, who included the Indiana Democratic Party, said the law is particularly hard on the poor, the elderly, minorities and others who might be less likely to own a driver’s license or passport and more likely to vote Democratic.

“The Supreme Court should be facilitating the right of all Americans to vote, not throwing up roadblocks,” said Judith Schaeffer, legal director for People for the American Way, which was among the groups opposing Indiana’s law. “The idea of in-person fraud at the polls is really a myth. It is problem that does not really exist.”

The law, passed in 2005, was previously upheld by a federal judge and by a panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

A survey released earlier this year by American University’s Center for Democracy and Election Management found that more than two-thirds of registered voters in Indiana, Mississippi and Maryland would trust the election system more if voters had to show an ID. About 1.2 percent of those surveyed lacked a government-issued photo ID, which the center’s co-director said shows the photo ID requirement is not a serious concern.

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Blogger Dusty said...

This ruling is SUCH bullshit John. It has raised my bloodpressure high enough that I get a headache each time I read about it.\

Fucking assholes. Our country doesn't even get 50% of the voters to come out and vote..yet the Rethugs swear people are lining up in droves to vote that have no right to do that.

title="comment permalink">April 30, 2008 5:26 PM  
Blogger Parson said...

I posted a nice little rant about Indiana and IDs. They won't even let you title a vehicle if you look Hispanic and can't produce a ID. Even though the BMV web site says only a S.S. number is needed. I guess that only counts for white people though.

title="comment permalink">April 30, 2008 8:50 PM  
Blogger John Good said...

Dusty - On behalf of the thinking folks here in America's armpit (Indiana), I apologize.

Parson - And white, like much else, lies in one's definition.

title="comment permalink">April 30, 2008 9:09 PM  
Blogger Dusty said...

Georgia has been trying for a decade to institute this kind of bullshit, but they got shot down each time by the federal courts...now of course they are happy as hell and the Rethug Governor will undoubtedly push through another measure.

title="comment permalink">April 30, 2008 10:15 PM  

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