Supreme Court up­holds req­ui­site ID at voter polls

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Stephen Di­nan

The Supreme Court on April 28 ruled that states can re­quire vot­ers to show photo iden­ti­fi­ca­tion at the polls, de­liv­er­ing a win to Repub­li­cans who pushed for an iden­ti­fi­ca­tion law in In­di­ana and green­light­ing other states to fol­low suit.

In a 6-3 rul­ing, the jus­tices up­held In­di­ana’s law, which has been called the strictest in the na­tion, say­ing that stop­ping the dan­ger of voter fraud trumps the bur­den placed on el­derly, mi­nor­ity and poor vot­ers by re­quir­ing iden­ti­fi­ca­tion.

“We can­not con­clude that the statute im­poses ‘ex­ces­sively bur­den­some re­quire­ments’ on any class of vot­ers,” Jus­tice John Paul Stevens wrote in the con­trol­ling opin­ion, joined by Chief Jus­tice John G. Roberts Jr. and Jus­tice An­thony M. Kennedy.

The court was weigh­ing in on what has been a lit­tle-no­ticed but bit­ter strug­gle be­tween Democrats and Repub­li­cans over fraud and vot­ers’ ac­cess to the vot­ing booth. In re­cent years, Ari­zona and Ge­or­gia also have en­acted iden­ti­fi­ca­tion laws, and this rul­ing will likely push other states to fol­low suit.

“It will give new im­pe­tus to our ef­fort to have a mod­er­ate voter ID law,” Mis­sis­sippi Gov. Ha­ley Bar­bour told The Wash­ing­ton Times. Mr. Bar­bour, a Repub­li­can, has so far been un­able to get the Mis­sis­sippi Leg­is­la­ture to pass such a law.

Elec­tions an­a­lysts said they ex­pect other states with Repub­li­can leg­isla­tive ma­jori­ties or new Repub­li­can gov­er­nors to con­sider their own laws.

Vot­ing rights groups and Democrats were ou­traged by the rul­ing, though with lib­eral stal­wart Jus­tice Stevens writ­ing the con­trol­ling opin­ion, they were hard-pressed to blame par­ti­san­ship.

Sen. Ed­ward M. Kennedy, Mas­sachusetts Demo­crat, said the “sil­ver lin­ing” was that the court left open the door for chal­lenges, but only if plain­tiffs could find ac­tual in­stances of vot­ers be­ing dis­en­fran­chised. He urged vot­ers to try to spot and re­port any per­ceived prob­lems this year.

“Congress and the states must be vig­i­lant to en­sure that to­day’s di­vided rul­ing is not ex­ploited for par­ti­san pur­poses in this elec­tion year,” Mr. Kennedy said.

Repub­li­cans gen­er­ally have fa­vored tighter fraud con­trols, and both the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee and the White House praised the court’s rul­ing. Democrats, mean­while, have said rules are too tight, and have fought to ex­pand bal­lot ac­cess through same-day reg­is­tra­tion and re-en­fran­chis­ing felons.

In the April 28 case, Craw­ford v. Mar­ion County Elec­tion Board, the jus­tices all agreed states should try to limit voter fraud, and should be given lee­way in con­duct­ing their elec­tions. The key is­sue was how much of a bur­den show­ing photo iden­ti­fi­ca­tion re­ally is.

“I be­lieve the statute is un­con­sti­tu­tional be­cause it im­poses a dis­pro­por­tion­ate bur­den upon those el­i­gi­ble vot­ers who lack a driver’s li­cense or other statu­to­rily valid form of photo ID,” Jus­tice Stephen G. Breyer said, dis­sent­ing. Jus­tice David H. Souter wrote a sep­a­rate dis­sent, joined by Jus­tice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

But three other jus­tices said iden­ti­fi­ca­tion is not a hin­drance.

“The bur­den of ac­quir­ing, pos­sess­ing, and show­ing a free photo iden­ti­fi­ca­tion is sim­ply not se­vere, be­cause it does not ‘even rep­re­sent a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease over the usual bur­dens of vot­ing,’ “ Jus­tice An­tonin Scalia wrote, joined by Jus­tices Samuel A. Al­ito Jr. and Clarence Thomas.

In­di­ana’s law re­quires vot­ers to show photo iden­ti­fi­ca­tion or, lack­ing that, visit elec­tion of­fi­cials within 10 days of the elec­tion to file an af­fi­davit af­firm­ing their iden­tity. The law al­ready had been up­held at the dis­trict and ap­peals court lev­els.

At trial, the state didn’t pro­duce much ev­i­dence of a prob­lem from in-per­son voter fraud, but the law’s Demo­cratic oppo- nents didn’t prove that show­ing iden­ti­fi­ca­tion was much of a bur­den, ei­ther.

A Fox 5/The Wash­ing­ton Times/Ras­mussen Re­ports poll ear­lier this year found an over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of vot­ers see noth­ing wrong with show­ing iden­ti­fi­ca­tion at the polls. Sup­port was strong across both party and racial lines.

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