« Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court issues opinion in air bag warning case | Main | Law - More on: "5-4 ruling limits use of race by district" »

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Ind. Decisions - Still more on: Appeal of Indiana voter ID case to Supreme Court anticipated

On May 16th the ILB reported:

The ILB has just learned that the ACLU-represented plaintiffs and the Indiana Democratic Party have each made final decisions to file separate but complementary cert petitions in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board. The petitions are currently due July 5.
For background, see this May 2nd ILB entry titled "Potential appeal of Indiana voter ID case to Supreme Court anticipated."

Today the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette's Washington reporter, Sylvia A. Smith, reports in a lengthy story:

The Supreme Court will decide whether Indiana’s voter ID law is too much of a burden for some people, as the state’s Democratic Party argues, or is a prudent way to prevent voter fraud, as Republican lawmakers contend.

The Democratic Party and the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana will file a request Monday asking the court to review the legal fight over the law. Voter ID has operated in two primaries and a fall election since the state legislature adopted a requirement that voters must produce photo identification at polling places.

The court will either agree to hear the case – ultimately choosing between the Indiana Democratic Party’s view and the state law – or refuse to consider it, which would be a victory for backers of the law.

No one can predict which cases the Supreme Court will decide to hear. Thousands are submitted for review; only a handful are chosen each year. * * *

Two dozen states have similar laws, and the federal appeals courts have disagreed on whether they are constitutional.

Although about six states have had voter identification requirements for years, most laws were passed in the past decade, prompted by fears that people who weren’t eligible to vote would try to cast ballots, said Jennifer Bowser of the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“There’s a lot of controversy over whether that’s true,” she said of the concerns about widespread voter fraud.

Nevertheless, that was the rationale Indiana’s Republican-controlled legislature used when it approved the law in 2005.

“We have come to a time … where voters need more confidence in the election process,” Secretary of State Todd Rokita said as the Indiana General Assembly was considering the legislation.

Opponents argue that a voter ID requirement addresses a non-existent problem and deters some people from voting. They say poor, elderly or minority voters are more likely to sit out Election Day if they have to produce some kind of identification. Poor and minority voters tend to vote Democratic.

A federal court didn’t buy that contention, in part because when the state Democratic Party and the American Civil Liberties Union sued to overturn the law, they did not name anyone who was rejected at the ballot box for lack of an ID.

“By not even having found one of these people, that does not convey substantial disenfranchisement,” Judge Richard Posner said when the case was argued in Chicago.

In the 2-1 ruling he wrote for the 7th U.S. Circuit Court, Posner said, “No doubt there are at least a few such people in Indiana, but the inability of the sponsors of this litigation to find any such person to join as a plaintiff suggests that the motivation for the suit is simply that the law may require the Democratic Party and the other organizational plaintiffs to work harder to get every last one of their supporters to the polls.” * * *

William Groth, an Indianapolis attorney for the state Democratic Party, said the appeals court should have made the state prove that impostors have voted in Indiana and that the law would fix that. Instead, he said, Posner put the burden of proof on the opponents of the law.

“There is no evidence that this type of impostor voting has occurred in the state of Indiana,” Groth said, “yet there’s lots of evidence it occurs in absentee balloting. But the legislature chose to exempt absentee voting.”

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 30, 2007 11:11 AM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions