Monday, January 07, 2008

Challenging Voters

Voter ID laws have finally made it up to the US Supreme Court, and not a moment too soon. On Wednesday the Court will hear arguments on a case challenging an Indiana law requiring a current state issued photo identification card in order to cast a ballot. At the heart of the case is a 61 year old woman who was not allowed to cast a regular ballot using the forms of identification she had used for years: a utility bill, a letter directed to her from the Social Security Administration, and an expired Indiana driver's license, according to this article in today's NY Times.

The timing of the case is important: the Supreme Court decision should be out by June, which means it will affect the rules in place for the 2008 election. Supporters on both sides of the issue recognize this.

Supporters of the law, most of them Republicans, say a requirement for a state photo identification card is a prudent step toward curbing voter fraud. They say the requirement helps to restore confidence in the voting process by removing the potential for fraud, though Indiana has never cited a case of “voter impersonation,” which is what the law is supposed to prevent.

Opponents of the law, most of them Democrats, view voter identification requirements as a deterrent that disproportionately affects poor, minority and elderly voters, who more often than other people lack the required forms of identification and who also tend to back Democrats. And unlike supporters of the law, they say they have evidence to bolster their case and show that it has harmed Indiana voters.
[Emphasis added]

What is equally as important as the constitutionality of imposing a law requiring "current" official identification card is the issue of just what barriers states can constitutionally impose on voters.

In the 1980s and ’90s, the Supreme Court came up with a test for assessing any law that placed hurdles before voters. The justices ruled that courts must weigh the value of the law to the state against the burden it placed on voters.

How the court applies that test in this case could set the standard for challenges to election rules across the country. The decision could affect a range of other voting-related rules being imposed by states, including ones involving the handling of provisional ballots, new restrictions on voter registration and the methods states can use to purge voters from registration rolls.
[Emphasis added]

This might be the case which will illuminate just how the presently constituted Supreme Court will rule on all other issues it faces. And, quite frankly, I am not that optimistic.

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Blogger Woody (Tokin' Lib'rul/Rogue Scholar & O'erall Helluvafella!) said...

No pol EVER wants to see voting made easier because, though it might mean mre voters for themselves, it could also mean more votes for a potential opponent.
Ergo, no pol ever wants to see changes in the rules under which they themselves were 'elected.'
It's the Iron Law of Voting Reform

8:50 AM  

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