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Sunday, January 06, 2008

Ind. Decisions - "High court to consider Indiana law on voter ID"

Sylvia A. Smith, Washington editor of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, writes today on the voter ID law challenge, to be heard Wednesday, January 9th in oral arguments before the Supreme Court of the United States. Some quotes:

The Supreme Court will hear all sides Wednesday morning when, for an hour, civil rights lawyers will take their best shot at Indiana’s 3-year-old law requiring a driver’s license or other picture identification before any Hoosier visits the polling booth on Election Day.

Lawyers for the state will defend the statute, which is similar to laws other states have passed but is the strictest in the U.S. Opponents will say it is an unconstitutional intrusion on Americans’ right to vote.

Advocates on both sides agree voter ID laws might deter some people from voting. What they disagree about is whether there’s enough fraud to warrant the tougher rules and whether the photo ID requirement is much of a barrier to voting.

What do Hoosiers have to do before they vote?

The 2005 legislation required voters, for the first time, to prove who they are before they vote. A government-issued photo ID – driver’s license, passport or identification card issued to non-drivers are the most common forms – must be presented to polling officials.

A person who shows up to vote without a picture ID may cast a provisional ballot but must present a photo ID to the county election board within 10 days.

People who vote by mail-in absentee ballot before Election Day are exempt. People who have religious objections to being photographed and indigent people can cast a provisional ballot on Election Day but must go to the county courthouse within 10 days to sign an affidavit swearing they are who they say they are.

Isn’t a photo ID pretty commonplace these days?

That’s exactly the logic of the appeals court, which ruled along party lines in Indiana’s favor. (The Republican-appointed judges supported the state law; the judge appointed by a Democratic president opposed it.)

“It is exceedingly difficult to maneuver in today’s America without a photo ID (try flying, or even entering a tall building such as the courthouse in which we sit, without one),” Judge Richard Posner, a Republican appointee, wrote in the 2-1 majority opinion. * * *

Has the voter ID law prevented anyone from voting?

The Indiana League of Women voters told the Supreme Court that the rule is a barrier for the elderly, poor people and members of faiths that forbid photos or eschew involvement with government.

In a friend-of-the-court filing, the group described the situations of three people who could not vote in 2006 or this year because of the law * * *

What does Indiana say about that?

In his argument to the court, Attorney General Steve Carter said the law “provides a reasonable method of verifying voter identity – a fundamental, pre-existing voter-eligibility criterion.”

He said there have been many cases of voter fraud of various types in Indiana over the years, and “even if the voter ID law would not have prevented these particular instances of election fraud, the Indiana General Assembly had reason to worry that a culture of election fraud was spreading.

“The need for better, yet still reasonable, fraud-prevention measures is self-evident,” he said.

Does everyone agree that the requirement is reasonable?

No. Indiana’s Democratic Party, backed by the Indiana Civil Liberties Union, thinks it’s a solution in search of a problem. * * *

Is there a lot of voter fraud?

Depends on whom you ask.

Todd Rokita, Indiana’s secretary of state and the top election official, says he’s asked about it all the time, and that his office had “dozens” of complaint calls in the last election.

Voter fraud is not rampant, Kelner said, but when “a lot is at stake – whether it be money in a commercial context or power in a political context – people will exploit the gaps in the system. It is human nature.”

But Goldberg says photo ID requirements deal with only one type of voter fraud: impersonating someone.

She said the photo ID laws don’t address ballot box stuffing or hiding some ballots, destroying voter registration forms, falsely registering large lists of people and vote buying.

And there is much more to this useful article.

Check this Nov. 14th ILB entry for links to sources of all briefs and all legal documents in the Indiana voter ID cases.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 6, 2008 10:50 AM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions