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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Law - No court consensus on voter ID laws

USA Today has a story by Joan Biskupic on voter ID laws, including a nice map showing the status of each state. Some quotes from the story:

Voter identification laws, adopted by states in recent years amid concerns about fraud, are getting mixed reviews as courts weigh whether they unconstitutionally keep some people from the polls.

State courts in Georgia and Missouri last fall invalidated laws that required voters to show photo ID each time they cast ballots. Georgia and Missouri are among 11 states that have passed such laws since 2003, inspired partly by allegations of voter fraud raised in Florida and elsewhere during the 2000 elections.

The Georgia law, blocked by federal and state judges, required people to show one of six government-issued forms of photo identification, such as a driver's license or passport. In the most recent challenge to the law, brought by voters who said they couldn't cast ballots because they did not have photo IDs, a judge ruled in September that Georgia's requirement put an unconstitutional condition on voting. Previously, state polling places had long accepted utility bills, bank statements and other types of non-photo ID as proof of residency.

In October, Missouri's Supreme Court struck down the state's requirement that registered voters show a state or federal photo ID to cast a ballot. The judges said the law was an illegal hurdle for poor, elderly and disabled residents.

Elsewhere, however, federal appeals courts have not been as willing to reject voter ID laws.

On Jan. 4, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit upheld Indiana's law requiring voters show photo ID in each election. Voting 2-1, the panel rejected claims by the state Democratic Party and others that the law violates the voting rights of those without easy access to such IDs.

Even as they upheld Indiana's law, Judge Richard Posner, joined by Judge Diane Sykes, cited the politics surrounding voter ID laws. "Most people who don't have photo ID are low on the economic ladder and … are more likely to vote for Democratic than Republican candidates," Posner wrote. He noted, however, that it's difficult to maneuver today without a photo ID and that "the vast majority of adults" have one.

Dissenting Judge Terence Evans sharply criticized the law: "Let's not beat around the bush: The Indiana voter photo ID law is a not-too-thinly-veiled attempt to discourage Election Day turnout by certain folks believed to skew Democratic."

Local attorney Bill Groth, who represents the plaintiffs in the Indiana case, has an article on the status of the Crawford v. Rokita here, at the American Values Alliance website.

Here is a list of earlier ILB entries on the case.

[BTW, the 7th Circuit has continually made its case links impossible to use. What works one day often does not work the next. Neither Groth's nor my links to the 7th Circuit opinion in the documents above appear to work now. This link (which indicates it is a temporary link) DOES work, at least as of this writing.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 24, 2007 09:07 AM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions