Identity Politics: Does the Constitution Prohibit State Voter Identification Measures?
The Indiana voter identification law requires only that persons wanting to vote in person in a general or primary election must present a government-issued photo ID at the polling place, such as a driver’s license or passport. Most people in the country have state issued identification as it is nearly impossible to accomplish regular tasks without state issued identification. Despite alternatives available to religious objectors, those in nursing homes, indigents, and those using absentee ballots, the Indiana Democratic Party filed a lawsuit against those tasked with enforcing the statute soon after its enactment, seeking injunction against its enforcement. The suit alleges that the law arbitrarily disenfranchises those without state issued ID, and unjustifiably burdens those who cannot obtain state issued ID.
The district court granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment because plaintiffs did “not introduc[e] evidence of a single, individual Indiana resident who will be unable to vote as a result of SEA 483 or who will have his or her right to vote unduly burdened by its requirements.” A divided appellate court affirmed the court below, rejecting the dissenting argument that the law was a “thinly-veiled” attempt to prevent minorities from voting for Democrats, and their implicit assumption that minorities are incapable of obtaining state issued identification.
Individual Liberty, Limited Government, Sound Science
Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, (Supreme Court) (petition stage)
Whether an Indiana statute requiring voter photo identification violates the First and Fourteenth Amedments.
ALF’s Amicus Brief:
ALF argues that the burdens of the ID requirement are slight in comparison to the poll taxes that are analogized to by the Petitioners. Unlike the documented burdens of poll taxes, Petitioners have failed to find a single member of any community or their constituency supposedly being discriminated against that will be unable to vote as a result of the law. This supports the proposition that the statute is narrowly tailored to fulfill its compelling interest in establishing a procedural safeguard against voter fraud, which infringes on the right of citizens to vote in elections that are designed to represent their will via the outcome, rather than the will of nefarious actors who may be tempted to attempt to skew the outcome in the absence of reasonable safeguards. This Court has recognized that states have a compelling interest in preventing fraud. Purcell v. Gonzalez, 127 S. Ct. 5, 6-7 (2006).
Voting regulation is not inherently suspect just because it requires some effort on the part of voters. Blingman v. Beaver, 544 U.S. 581, 593 (2005). Equitable and fair elections require voting regulations, which should not automatically be subject to strict scrutiny. Burdock v. Takeshita, 504 U.S. 428, 433-34 (1992). To invoke strict scrutiny, a showing of the “character and magnitude of the asserted injury” must be made. Anderson v. Celebrezze, 460 U.S. 780, 788-90 (1983). The principle evidence the Petitioners offer is a study with severe methodological flaws, which the trial court and appeals court both rejected. Without a reliable showing of a widespread harm, ALF asks this Court to deny Petitioners certiorari, or affirm the right of the states to secure their elections.
On April 28, 2007, the Supreme Court issued a favorable opinion, in which Justice Breyer held that the burden on voters is offset by the benefit of reducing the risk of election fraud.
Date Originally Posted: December 10, 2007