SCOTUS Upholds Indiana Voter ID Law

The Supreme court has upheld Indiana's Voter ID law:

The Supreme Court has ruled that states can require voters to produce photo identification without violating their constitutional rights. The decision validates Republican-inspired voter ID laws. The court vote 6-3 to uphold Indiana's strict photo ID requirement. Democrats and civil rights groups say the law would deter poor, older and minority voters from casting ballots.

Opinion here (PDF). More . . .

Justice Stevens' Opinion for the Court (joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy) stressed the fact that this legal challenge was to the face of the statute and thus the burden was higher for ruling the law unconstitutional:

Petitioners bear a heavy burden of persuasion in seeking to invalidate SEA 483 in all its applications. This Court’s reasoning in Washington State Grange v. Washington State Republican Party, 552 U. S. ___, applies with added force here. Petitioners argue that Indiana’s interests do not justify the burden imposed on voters who cannot afford or obtain a birth certificate and who must make a second trip to the circuit court clerk’s office, but it is not possible to quantify, based on the evidence in the record, either that burden’s magnitude or the portion of the burden that is fully justified. A facial challenge must fail where the statute has a “ ‘plainly legitimate sweep.’ ” Id., at ___. When considering SEA 483’s broad application to all Indiana voters, it “imposes only a limited burden on voters’ rights.” Burdick v. Takushi, 504 U. S. 428, 439. The “precise interests” advanced by Indiana are therefore sufficient to defeat petitioners’ facial challenge.

From Justice Souter's (joined by Justice Ginsburg) dissent:

JUSTICE SOUTER, with whom JUSTICE GINSBURG joins, dissenting. Indiana’s “Voter ID Law”1 threatens to impose nontrivial burdens on the voting right of tens of thousands of the State’s citizens, see ante, at 14–15 (lead opinion), and a significant percentage of those individuals are likely to be deterred from voting, see ante, at 15–16. The statute is unconstitutional under the balancing standard of Burdick v. Takushi, 504 U. S. 428 (1992): a State may not burden the right to vote merely by invoking abstract interests, be they legitimate, see ante, at 7–13, or even compelling, but must make a particular, factual showing that threats to its interests outweigh the particular impediments it has imposed. The State has made no such justification here, and as to some aspects of its law, it has hardly even tried. I therefore respectfully dissent from the Court’s judgment sustaining the statute.2

From Justice Breyer's dissent:

In determining whether this statute violates the Federal Constitution, I would balance the voting-related interests that the statute affects, asking “whether the statute burdens any one such interest in a manner out of proportion to the statute’s salutary effects upon the others (perhaps, but not necessarily, because of the existence of a clearly superior, less restrictive alternative).” Nixon v. Shrink Missouri Government PAC, 528 U. S. 377, 402 (2000) (BREYER, J., concurring); ante, at 6–7 (lead opinion) (similar standard); ante, at 2–3 (SOUTER, J., dissenting) (similar standard). Applying this standard, 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.

In concurrence, Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito argued that burdens on voters are irrelevant:

The lead opinion assumes petitioners’ premise that the voter-identification law “may have imposed a special burden on” some voters, ante, at 16, but holds that petitioners have not assembled evidence to show that the special burden is severe enough to warrant strict scrutiny, ante, at 18–19. That is true enough, but for the sake of clarity and finality (as well as adherence to precedent), I prefer to decide these cases on the grounds that petitioners’ premise is irrelevant and that the burden at issue is minimal and justified.
< Obama "Bored" With Campaign | Rev. Wright at the National Press Club >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    Without Having Yet Read (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by The Maven on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 09:30:11 AM EST
    the opinions here, but merely from a quick skim of the syllabus, it's quite notable -- but not in the least bit surprising -- that the concurring opinion by Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito took the "view that petitioners' premise that the voter-identification law might have imposed a special burden on some voters is irrelevant. The law should be upheld because its overall burden is minimal and justified."  (Emphasis added)

    Burden, schmurden.  They should just be thankful we even pretend to care about voting rights at all.  (That's their opinion, not mine.)

    And just to point out, it was Justice Stevens (who's not as uniformly liberal as some might believe) here who authored the principal opinion, joined by Roberts and Kennedy.

    Here in FL, if you don't have a (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by FlaDemFem on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 09:36:38 AM EST
    driver's license, you can get a photo ID from the DMV for a very low fee. I think it's $5. It is just the same as a driver's license as far as the info on it and is accepted as verification of ID the same way a driver's license is. I have a driver's license, of course, I also carry my voter registration card in my wallet.

    Here is a funny story about the voter ID thing..my friend Margaret went to vote and a neighborhood young person was doing the IDs and checking people off the list as they were given ballots. He asked Margaret for her ID, which she had, but she just looked at him and said,"You have known me all your life, fool, trust your eyes. Give me the ballot..now!!" He did, and she voted. Small towns, you gotta love 'em!!

    Great story (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by AnninCA on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 09:54:39 AM EST

    I'm always surprised in CA when I don't have to show any form of ID.                          


    She could have been a Cylon, or a T3.... (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by jerry on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 10:00:45 AM EST
    When we let people like that intimidate us, we're begging for a Cylon invasion....

    I lost my drivers' license years ago (none / 0) (#36)
    by litigatormom on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 01:58:08 PM EST
    when my wallet was stolen; I thought the DMV would send me a renewal notice, but it never arrived, and at some point I realized my license had expired. NOW I have to take the written and road test over again, plus sit through a five hour "safety" class. I never drove much because I live in Manhattan, so in eight years I haven't gotten it together to get a new license.  In the meantime, 9/11 happened and you need photo id to get into most commercial buildings.  So now I take my passport with me everywhere.

    But what happens to non-driving voters who don't travel, and have neither licenses nor passports? Here in the NYC metro area, counties are small and county seats are never very far away, but what about all those big square states out West with big square counties?


    They can institute the same program FL (none / 0) (#38)
    by FlaDemFem on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 02:16:36 PM EST
    has. FL started it because so many people don't drive here, elderly etc., and they needed photo ids. So they set it up so you can get one from the state that is identical in identifying you as the driver's license, it just doesn't license you to drive. The machinery is all in place, all you need is a new form for the ID that says it's an ID not a driver's license. Not hard at all, and not expensive either. Every DMV place already has that photo thingy that puts a photo on a card for you. Easy as pie. Which is probably why few states do it.

    Here in CA (none / 0) (#39)
    by waldenpond on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 02:20:08 PM EST
    We have drivers licenses and IDs.  You can do most of the work over the internet, or order the paperwork.  You don't have to stand in line, you make an appt and go in with the appropriate info (SS#, utility bill, others) and get an ID.  I believe you pay a small fee here, but Indiana is doing IDs for free.

    Free in Indiana (none / 0) (#37)
    by waldenpond on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 02:15:36 PM EST
    Indiana is doing free IDs.  

    The right to vote (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by Lena on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 09:41:32 AM EST
    should not be blocked by the state, certainly not for frivolous or irrelevant reasons.

    Having said that (and with the cloak of anonymity that the internet gives me) I have to sincerely ask, as a card-carrying liberal: how does a picture-ID law block the right to vote? Maybe in the days before a picture ID was common, or maybe when not many people drove, it could be an impediment to voting, but what is the problem today? Is it an intimidation matter? Is it that some ex-felons are required to have identifying marks on their driver's licenses or ID cards, so don't want to show them to anyone?

    I just don't get it.

    Have you ever NOT had a driver's (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by Fabian on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 09:50:46 AM EST

    Heck, if you want to have a lot of fun, try living in this modern world without a car, driver's license and a credit card.  The car restricts your access to physical locations, but without a driver's license AND at least one credit card, you begin to feel like you are literally a second class citizen because many businesses don't want to trust you.  That state issued ID can earn you strange looks or requests for more forms of identification like, you guessed it, at least one credit card - in order accept your check.

    Maybe that ID will allow you to cast your ballot, but sometimes it feels like it's good for precious little else.


    Its true, those second class citizens (none / 0) (#29)
    by fuzzyone on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 11:16:23 AM EST
    are known as poor people.  But why worry about whether they can vote.

    If you get stopped (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by eric on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 10:07:50 AM EST
    here in Minnesota for a DWI/DUI, your license is toast.  They either take it right there or clip it with a scissors and hand you a paper that says that you have 10 days before it is invalidated.  Recent figures indicate that 1 in 8 drivers in Minnesota have a DWI/DUI, so this isn't a rare thing.

    A lot of people don't drive, also.  Especially people who don't have the need for cars, like those that find themselves in the urban underclass.

    Furthermore, it can take up to six weeks to even GET an ID here.  What about that?


    Your receipt is your (none / 0) (#42)
    by waldenpond on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 02:22:44 PM EST
    ID.  You don't have to have the actual ID.  The paper receipt is your ID until the photo ID comes.

    Most states (5.00 / 2) (#26)
    by standingup on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 10:40:52 AM EST
    are requiring either a drivers license or state photo ID. The first problem opponents note is the fees for obtaining a photo ID are the equivalent of a poll tax. Election law expert Dan Tokaji wrote this op-ed that gives a good overview of the problems with requiring voters to have a photo ID.

    This creates an unnecessary burden to vote on too many groups. The Republicans have been pushing this for years by scaring people with false stories of voter fraud and stolen elections. It quite simply works in their favor to depress or suppress voters because it works against people who typically vote for Democrats. My state, Missouri, has changed the requirements for getting a license or photo ID. Think of how difficult it could be for many people, particularly elderly people to provide the following:

    Before you can receive your Missouri non-driver ID card, you'll need to present the following documents:
    • A copy of your recent utility bill, property tax receipt, bank statement or voter registration card to provide proof of residency.
    • Your Social Security card or Medicare card with your full legal name to provide proof of identity.
    • Your birth certificate, U.S. passport, Certificate of Naturalization, Certificate of Birth Abroad, or Certificate of Citizenship to provide proof of your lawful presence in the United States.
    If you are age 69 or younger, you'll receive a non-driver ID card that expires on your birthday six years from the date of issue. If you're age 70 or older, you'll receive a non-driver ID card with no expiration date. The fee for a non-driver ID card is $11, regardless of whether you are eligible to receive a card with no expiration date.
    Think about people living in nursing homes, assisted living or retirement communities that may not have the documents required by the state and are dependent on others for transportation. Then there are the people who might have trouble getting to a state driver license office to get an ID card because the hours conflict with their working hours. And people who don't have their own transportation have the additional expense of getting to a driver license office. Many of our smaller towns don't offer public transportation. We should be making it easier for people to vote. This is a big victory for the right and I hope the Democrats that refused to take a stand against Roberts are pleased with themselves.

    Indeed! (none / 0) (#44)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 02:43:32 PM EST

    Think about people living in nursing homes, assisted living or retirement communities that may not have the documents required by the state and are dependent on others for transportation.

    These folks routinely get absentee ballots.  So the ID is not much of an issue.  A bigger problem may be nursing home staff voting for their patients.


    Please spare me (none / 0) (#45)
    by standingup on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 03:42:44 PM EST
    the Republican talking points on voter fraud.

    In Va, all you need is your voter registration (none / 0) (#19)
    by Joan in VA on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 10:08:46 AM EST
    card. That's all a state should be checking-that you are registered to vote. They already have a list of voters on site. So they can just check the name. So anything else they ask for is an "additional burden". If you don't drive, then you are unlikely to have picture id.

    From my perspective only (none / 0) (#27)
    by kenoshaMarge on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 10:45:29 AM EST
    It's a problem when they put the DMV out beyond the end of the bus line. Thus those of us that don't drive will not have the right to vote unless we can get some family member or friend to take us out to the DMV to get our I.D. renewed.

    Oh and they moved my polling place which was only two blocks from where I live to the museum which is also beyond the end of the bus line.

    Non-drivers are becoming non-citizens IMO.


    In Indiana there is little public transport. (none / 0) (#33)
    by inclusiveheart on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 11:40:51 AM EST
    I guess the only thing that makes this decision remotely advantageous to Dems - and this is a stretch because it is a very bad decision IMO - is that people who live in the city are going to have an easier time meeting these requirements - if they have the money for the birth certificate or other government ID and if they can take time off from work and if they have no other obstacles to going through the procedures either physical or financial.  UGH.  This is a bad decision.

    In my community (none / 0) (#43)
    by waldenpond on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 02:28:25 PM EST
    (in CA)  you would qualify for our free transportation.  I have no idea if the state pays for part of it, but it is used for taking people to doctor appts, govt appts etc.  Getting an ID would be covered.  The states and the DNC needs to get organized and make sure transportation is available.  The transportation to the polling place would not be provided as we have absentee voting.

    This decision is being covered non-stop (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Edgar08 on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 09:47:43 AM EST
    On the networks right now.

    They're actually reading the opinions and debating them coherently on CNN right now.


    Good one! (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by Fabian on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 09:51:46 AM EST
    I did a double take, and then finished reading the comment.

    If I was going to guess, it would be Wright all over the air waves today.


    I thought twice before posting it (none / 0) (#12)
    by Edgar08 on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 09:55:53 AM EST
    I'm sure it's not to be considered a segue.

    I think I agree with this decision by the way.  I think IDs are important.  If the socio-economic concerns can be addressed, the folks who look at IDs as some sort of government control can be dismissed.

    I think it's an important issue.

    If my joke is funny it's cause the media SHOULD be discussing something like this instead of the other thing.

    But then who would watch?


    Set up ID clinics in grocery stores. (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by Fabian on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 10:11:00 AM EST
    They set up flue shot clinics in grocery stores, and run Bloodmobiles hither and yon - why not have an ID-mobile?  

    Suggested locations:
    Large employers
    Community colleges

    Make it the state's responsibility to provide access - unfunded mandates and all.


    How to fund it? (none / 0) (#22)
    by Edgar08 on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 10:15:46 AM EST
    It's either this or ping pong.

    Beach ping pong! (none / 0) (#23)
    by Fabian on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 10:22:50 AM EST
    Those taut, lean bodies shining in the sun.....

    Ugh (5.00 / 2) (#9)
    by andgarden on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 09:50:49 AM EST
    I fundamentally disagree with this.

    What we'll have to do is to take political control in these states, if possible, and change the law to be more fair.

    After a brief (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by eric on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 09:57:52 AM EST
    skim through the opionion, it appears that this law was upheld as to a "facial" attack.  That is, the law is not unconstitutional on its face.  The law is seen as an "even handed restriction".

    I have no doubt that the effects of this law, on the other hand, will show disperate impact.  This leaves the law open to additional challenge.  Assume, for example, that it is shown that some disperate number of old people or a minority group is affected by this law.  (I think that it will.)

    National Identification (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by Stellaaa on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 10:01:40 AM EST
    I understand the issues with having a National Identification, but what is happening right now, is that people who don't have much in terms of resources have to get IDs in every state when they move.  They cannot get any local, state or federal services without IDs.  Poor people particularly have problems when going to a new state getting IDs, the money etc.  I feel right now it's an impediment to people to have an ID issued by states.  In some ways I feel a national ID would say:  Heck, I am  an American, I have a right to vote, I can get public services, etc. etc.  Right now getting ID is one of the biggest obstacle for some people to get even food stamps.  I really am conflicted about the ID issues when I see how it affects people on a daily basis.  

    They should just cut (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by eric on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 10:14:02 AM EST
    to the chase and stamp a barcode on our wrists.

    Free Cards (5.00 / 2) (#24)
    by mmc9431 on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 10:23:35 AM EST
    As this is mandated, then it should be funded. If the government won't then politician should create funding drives so that everyone can have a card. I stil think this is just a prelude to an official national ID card that we will be required to carry.

    Agreed. Free. (none / 0) (#28)
    by alsace on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 10:48:12 AM EST
    Otherwise, it's a poll tax.

    I hope this is not over (5.00 / 1) (#30)
    by fuzzyone on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 11:23:19 AM EST
    I think this was a bad litigation strategy.  A facial challenge is always a very tough route.  I think they would have been better off finding some people who could not vote because of the law, either because getting the ID was a hardship or because they did not have the required documents (you need a birth certificate to get the ID but you need ID to get a birth certificate.  I hope someone gets such a case together.

    Make no mistake, this is a republican effort to depress turnout by democrats.  This has nothing to do with fraud.  There is no evidence of people voting twice by impersonating someone else.  If you think about it its a silly way to commit voter fraud.  How much of an effect can you have committing fraud one vote at a time.  You have to identify someone who is not going to vote and then risk jail in order to register one extra vote for your candidate.  It makes no sense which is why it does not happen.

    Certianly seems simple though (none / 0) (#35)
    by AlSmith on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 11:48:41 AM EST

    News reporters love to test security at airports.

    I wonder if they have ever tried voting this way to see how hard it is to do.

    If you had 20 guys and drive them around between polling places you certainly could generate quite a few extra votes in afternoon doing this- enough to throw local races. Back where i used to live in the North East, the precinct captains who was going to vote in there district and who wouldn't, so they could easily come up with a list of names of people who could be voted in the stead of.

    Nice easy low tech fraud.


    Majority thinks that partisan motivations (none / 0) (#40)
    by litigatormom on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 02:20:54 PM EST
    to depress voting by certain populations are okay as long as it is not the only motivation.  The desire to prevent non-existent voter fraud in IN was a "neutral" and valid reason for the statute, because voter fraud of the kind addressed by the statute -- impersonation of registered voters at polling places -- has occurred elsewhere in the nation.

    The majority also rejected the poll tax argument, because voters who don't have drivers' licenses or passports can get a free voter id card.  The fact that it may cost money, or be logistically difficult, for some voters to obtain birth certificates for purposes of getting the free voter id is not a poll tax, or a significant burden, says the majority, for the overwhelming number of voters, and speculation about a small number of people who might find it difficult are insufficient to outweigh the "neutral" purposes of the law.

    Scalia would have gone even farther, and would have upheld the statute on an "as applied," as well as a facial basis.

    But hey, what's the right to vote really worth in the era of paperless electronic voting?


    Wow (none / 0) (#1)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 09:25:36 AM EST

    This brings us in line with just about every other industrialized nation on the planet.

    Electoral Issues (none / 0) (#6)
    by Athena on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 09:44:43 AM EST
    BTD, we need more discussion of electoral procedures in general.  I'm deeply worried - and resigned - to predictable GOP engineering in 2008.  In fact, they are only getting better at it since 2000 and 2004.  One of my strongest reasons for supporting Clinton is that I think the Clintons will actually fight electoral theft, unlike Kerry.

    will this be in effect in IN primary? (none / 0) (#14)
    by Josey on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 09:59:49 AM EST

    That's a terrific question. (5.00 / 2) (#17)
    by jerry on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 10:04:20 AM EST
    Unless they have been prepared for this the entire time and telling voters to bring IDs with them(), with the primary a week away, boy would that create massive foul-ups for voters....

    () That is what happened in Arizona...


    YES, per SCOTUSBlog (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by scribe on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 10:34:00 AM EST
    (about as authoritative on S.Ct. issues as it gets), posted here.  They note (my emphasis added):

    The voter ID ruling may turn out to be a significant victory for Republicans at election time, since the requirement for proof of identification is likely to fall most heavily on voters long  assumed to be identified with the Democrats -- particularly, minority and poor voters.  The GOP for years has been actively pursuing a campaign against what it calls "voter fraud," and the Court's ruling Monday appears to validate that effort, at least in part.  The main opinion said states have a valid interest in preventing voting by those not entitled to do so, even if there is no specific proof of that kind of fraud in the state.

    While the Court's main opinion said it was "fair to infer that partisan considerations may have played a significant role" in enacting the photo ID law, it went on to say that that law was neutral in its application and was adequately supported by the justifications the state had offered.

    Putting together the three votes of Justices who found the particular challenge to Indiana's law wanting on the evidence, with the votes of the three dissenters, means, however, that a majority of the Court has not barred all future challenges to voter ID laws, provided future cases seek to test such laws as they were actually applied in a specific election.  Still, the plurality opinion that announced the Court's judgment - written by Justice John Paul Stevens -- probably means that any such "as-applied" challenges would not be easy to make.

    * * *

    Justice Stevens' opinion stresses that the Court was ruling on the law only as written, saying the Democratic challengers faced "a heavy burden of persuasion in seeking to invalidate" the 2005 law "in all its applications."  The opinion said that the challengers' evidence did not make it possible to quantify the size of any burden on voters, or to judge what part of any burden was justified.

    Finding that the state's arguments in favor of the photo ID law were sufficient to defeat the as-written challenge, Stevens said states have a valid interest "in deterring and detecting voter fraud."  The state, he added, "has a valid interest in participating in a nationwide effort to improve and modernize election procedures criticized as antiquated and inefficient."

    If it is, some people think (none / 0) (#34)
    by Iphie on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 11:41:49 AM EST
    that this could disproportionately effect female voters in IN. Which of course means this could very definitely be dangerous for Clinton in the primary. From Riverdaughter -- go read the whole thing and disseminate it to anyone you know in IN.
    Now, normally, Indiana wouldn't even be on our radar map during a primary season but this year is different and suddenly they've become a big player, which makes it all the more crucial to pay attention to this law. If Indiana is like the rest of the country, there is going to be a high turnout of women for the primary election. And unfortunately, due to custom and tradition, women are most likely to have mismatches in their ID documentation. Through marriage, divorce, remarriage, a woman's name can change several times during her lifetime. Sometimes, we are not always pro-active about updating all of our records with the social security office, the IRS, driver's licenses, utiliy bills,etc, etc
    Basic advice -- make sure your paperwork and records are updated.

    Yes (none / 0) (#41)
    by litigatormom on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 02:22:33 PM EST
    The law has been in effect since it was adopted.  The state won at the District Court and Circuit Court levels, and there was no injunction pending appeal.  So the law is in effect, and therefore -- whatever else it does -- it should not cause confusion next week.

    Well lookee there (none / 0) (#31)
    by buhdydharma on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 11:31:42 AM EST
    You can still write about something that actually matters!


    Of course, it was acknowleged in (none / 0) (#32)
    by inclusiveheart on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 11:36:25 AM EST
    the decision that there are no identifiable cases of voter fraud in Indiana.

    The decision apparently solves a non-existent problem.  Unless, of course you take the view that the real problem is allowing the great unwashed masses easy access to the polls and in that case it does solve a "problem".

    I can't wait until they require that I get one of those micro identification chips injected into my body so I can vote - you know like the ones people have injected into their pets - that will prevent voter fraud - yipee! /snark