Time warp – facially neutral voting restrictions upheld!

Get out your driver’s license, Vicky! You are going to need in in Indiana to vote. The Supreme Court just upheld Indiana’s law requiring valid photo ID for people who show up to vote. I guess I am not surprised that it came out this way, but I am a little surprised that it was 6-3 (instead of 5-4). Stevens, Scalia, Alito, Thomas, Roberts, and Kennedy.

I have only read the syllabus, and of course slip opinions can have errors, but so far my favorite sentence is, “Because Indiana’s cards are free, the inconvenience of going to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, gathering required documents, and posing for a photograph does not qualify as a substantial burden on most voters’ right to vote, or represent a significant increase over the usual burden of voting.” (Yes, I know I lecture on and on about not quoting from the syllabus — it is a blog).

I was at the IL Secretary of State’s office last week and let me me tell you that is a signifcantly increased burden if the default is just showing up to vote.

OK, so jibes at the DMV, BMV, or Secretary of State’s Office or whatever, aside, this is a serious blow to anyone who believes in civil liberties. Is this really the least restrictive means available for protecting against voter fraud? (By the way, that is not the legal standard — least restrictive — it just seems to be a good one which is often employed in other constitutional cases where rights we value a lot are being limited in some way out of a compelling interest. The jurisprudential standard is that the court must (1) consider the magnitude of the first and fourth amendment rights against the precise state interests and (2) considering the extent to which those interests burden the plaintiff).

Let’s just start off by agreeing the voter fraud is bad and could be a problem. At least right now, elections are being won or lost by the slimmest of margins. But that is why the 43,000 residents of IN who are legally entitled to vote but have no such card should not be discouraged from voting! That is 1% of the eleigble voters in IN! And, guess which folks are the least likely to have such ID? Poor, people of color, and elderly folks (not that those are mutually exclusive categories).

As Souter points out, there are very few BMVs compared to polling places. You usually walk a few blocks to vote, but how far away is your BMV? What about inking thumbs like they do in developing nations? Seriously — isn’t that less restrictive? OK, I am back to reading the opinion now.

You can read the opinion here (opens as a PDF).


4 Responses to Time warp – facially neutral voting restrictions upheld!

  1. dspett says:

    I know that “compelling state interest” is not the standard here, either, but it seems relevant that, at least as far as I know, there is *no* evidence of significant voter fraud of this kind going on in IN or anywhere else. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.) Doesn’t common sense dictate that it’s a foolish way to rig elections? You have people show up at polling places and vote under others’ names — What if the real voter shows up? What if the pollworkers know the real voter (the workers are locals, after all) and catch the impostor? In most states, I believe you already need to have your ID checked and your address verified before you vote for the first time. If you want to rig an election, this sort of fraud doesn’t strike me as the way to do it. (And I think recent history proves that.)

    P.S. J.P., watchu doin’, man?

  2. laurabethnielsen says:

    And, here in IL, you need to show it if you did not vote int eh last election. Which happened to me when we lived in CA for 10 months and we missed a local election. I stayed ont eh ID required list for like 4 elections and finally have been removed.

  3. dspett says:

    Hm, I voted here in the primary for the first time since 2005 and my ID was not checked.

  4. vickywoeste says:

    This stupid law was passed two years ago, in time to be tested in the 2006 mid-year elections, without any showing of not just significant fraud but of any voter fraud whatsoever. The then-republican-controlled legislature passed it in order to tamp down voter particicpation, fearing the loss of one or perhaps even both houses of the Indiana legislature and some congressional districts. Guess what: those things happened anyway. In the meantime, the poor and minorities are being hassled at the polls. So are the elderly, students, and anyone who doesn’t understand the requirements. Plus, if your voter registration information on file doesn’t match your government-issued ID, you can actually be denied the right to vote–as happened last fall in the off-year elections. It probably didn’t affect the outcome of the mayoral race in our little town (the D incumbent lost badly, in a personality-driven contest), but it showed how shallow the pretext of the voter ID law was. Naturally, CJ Roberts (a native Hoosier) led the charge here, even though Stevens wrote the majority op. There are so many problems with this law I can’t even begin to list them all–the poll workers in our county weren’t bothering to issue provisional ballots, for one thing–and now we’re stuck with this damn thing.

    But the good news is that the Ds registered probably 5-1 more new voters this spring than the Rs in my R-dominated county alone. If that holds true across the state, we could be looking at a blue Indiana in November. And right now Barack is leading–within the margin of error, ’tis true–but if he pulls it off here and pulls out NC, he could finally put this thing to bed, no matter how hard the media tries to fan whatever Jeremiah Wright says into the jet-fueled flames of “controversy.” Another thing not to get me started on this late at night . . .

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