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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Supreme Court Listens to Arguments About Voter ID Law

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. seems interested in a lower court's finding that those challenging the law had not found "a single person'' who had tried to vote but was turned away because of the law.
At the heart of the case, is the Indiana law requiring citizens to present photo ID as a condition of voting.

Public Law 109-2005 requires Indiana residents to present photo ID before casting a ballot at the polls on Election day.

This morning a lawyer representing Democrats is facing tough questioning from Supreme Court judges about his challenge to the Indiana state voter ID law.

Chief Justice Roberts is displaying skepticism about the Democratic claims that this would impose a unconstitutional burden on voters considering the fact that those challenging the law had not found "a single person'' who had tried to vote but was turned away because of the law.

On January 4, 2007, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in an opinion written by Judge Posner, and upheld the lower court decision and found that the state law did not unduly burden the right to vote. Plaintiffs were denied a rehearing on April 5, 2007.

Judge Richard A. Posner agreed with the Democratic plaintiffs that the voter ID requirements injured the Democratic Party but said that while few people would be deterred from voting, that there was a valid claim on the other side of the issue that “voting fraud impairs the right of legitimate voters to vote by diluting their votes.”

Point of interest, The American Civil Rights Union (ACRU) -- a conservative alternative to the ACLU -- has filed a "friend of the court" brief with the Supreme Court supporting the state of Indiana's Voter ID Law, which is being challenged by the ACLU as unconstitutional.

"In Indiana they were worried because the number of names on the voter registration rolls were 40 percent greater than the number of citizens in the state," he points out. "So they thought there was great opportunity for voter fraud -- and that's why they adopted this requirement."

The Indiana Democratic Party, one of the groups challenging the law, said those that would be affected would be low-income residents without cars, urban dwellers and elderly people who no longer drive and that they would most likely be those that would vote for the Democratic party.

According to the ScotusBlog (Supreme Court of the United States Blog), which keeps track of pending and ongoing Supreme Court cases, Justice Stevens asked U.S. Solicitor General Paul D. Clement whether "it was “fair to infer” that the law did have an “adverse impact on the Democratic Party” different from that on the Republicans. "

The Solicitor General answered that it was not relevant, commenting "that any such Republican ploy had “gone awry” because the Democrats did pretty well in the ensuing election."

Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Antonin Scalia seemed to find Indiana's requirements overly burdensome to voters. Roberts also pointed out that the state will be required to issue photo IDs for those without driver's licenses and that accommodations are made so that voters without identification can cast provisional ballots.

Those would go to a different location, where the voter could present themselves and proof of identity at a later time.

Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the more predictably conservative members, led the charge against the challengers, drawing in his wake Chief Justice John G. Roberts and Justice Alito and (to some extent) Justice Kennedy in questioning whether anyone had “standing” to bring this case. Scalia also took the lead in questioning — even more aggressively — whether the case should have been brought at all to the law as written rather than to its actual application in a specific election setting. As it turns out, those are the two complaints that the Bush Administration leveled most strongly against the challenge.

The court's decision likely will be issued before it adjourns at the end of June, in time for the 2008 general elections.

According to an AP article, published at, they say that "Most of the justices don't appear swayed by arguments of unfairness."