Briefing on Voter ID laws

10 01 2008

Cross-posted at

On January 9, in the thick of this early Presidential primary season, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments challenging the constitutionality of a controversial voter ID law enacted by the state of Indiana in two voting rights cases called Crawford v. Marion County Election Board and Indiana Democratic Party v. Rokita.The law in question mandates voters present a government-issued identification, such as a driver’s license or a U.S. passport to vote. In both cases, the Supreme Court will decide if the law imposes an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote.

Prior to the law’s enactment in July 2005, voters in Indiana did not have to present a photo ID at the polls. As long as their digital and real signatures matched, and they filled out an affidavit attesting to their identity, they could cast a regular ballot.Under the new law, those without a photo ID can only cast a provisional ballot, which may be counted only after voters prove their identity at a county election office within 10 days after an election. The new law does not, however, address absentee ballot fraud or ballot stuffing, which are more common than in-person voter fraud.

Proponents of the law contend it is a necessary tool to deter fraudulent voting, which could illegitimately swing close elections, and to build public confidence in the voting process. Opponents of the law, however, argue that the provisions are too restrictive, since many people do not have photo IDs, including many who are disabled, a minority, elderly or homeless.

Additionally, opponents say that given how state officials have yet to prosecute a single case of in-person voter fraud in Indiana, the law is unnecessary. “Though election misconduct certainly exists, including improper purges of voters, and distributing false information about when and where to vote, there is no evidence that the in-person voter fraud that voter ID laws purports to address is anything but an anomaly,” said Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.

At a January 3rd press briefing organized by the American Constitutional Society, Deborah Goldberg of the Brennan Center emphasized the potential national impact of the Supreme Court upholding the law by saying, “National studies show that between 10 and 12 percent of the American public do not have a driver’s license and only a quarter have a passport.”So far Florida, Indiana, and Georgia are the only states that require all voters to produce a photo ID at the polls.

But Capital University law professor and former Federal Elections Commissioner Bradley Smith found such facts unconvincing. After citing a collection of studies sympathetic to the voter ID agenda, Smith concluded, “…but what we have to realize here is that to err on the side of the right to vote is to err on the side of allowing the votes of legitimate voters to be diluted by the votes of fraudulent voters…When we frame it that way it does not sound nearly so appealing. Indeed, to air on the side of the right to vote may mean we need to uphold these laws.”

Former Justice Department voting rights attorney Jon Greenbaum, another panelist at the briefing, countered that illegitimate voting to steal an election requires a series of unlikely events to occur. He said that such a conspiracy would necessitate finding a group of people who would be willing to impersonate another group of registered voters, mimic their signatures, memorize their names, travel to the polling place of those voters, know whether or not those voters already voted, and still bank on not being recognized by polling officials. Plus, anyone caught voting illegitimately would risk facing hefty fines and stiff criminal penalties.

An exasperated Greenbaum then concluded, “It just doesn’t make sense.”

The Court is expected to rule on the case in June.

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One response

15 01 2008

KUT, you are ON FIRE right now!!!

It’s not the he won’t stop blogging, it’s that he CAN’T stop blogging.


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