April 28, 2008

Photo ID law Upheld

ID continues to grow in importance and this time it involves photo ID requirements. DHS just last week trumpeted that fingerprints were about to be mandated. Hard to imagine that stepped up identification processes are just going to become more and more prevalent throughout modern life.


The law "is amply justified by the valid interest in protecting "the integrity and reliability of the electoral process,'" Justice John Paul Stevens said in an opinion that was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy. Stevens was a dissenter in Bush v. Gore in 2000.

Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas also agreed with the outcome, but wrote separately. Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter dissented, just as they did in 2000.

More than 20 states require some form of identification at the polls. Courts have upheld voter ID laws in Arizona, Georgia and Michigan, but struck down Missouri's. Monday's decision comes a week before Indiana's presidential primary. The decision also could spur efforts to pass similar laws in other states.

Ken Falk, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, said he hadn't reviewed the decision, but he was "extremely disappointed" by it. Falk has said voter ID laws inhibit voting, and a person's right to vote "is the most important right." The ACLU brought the case on behalf of Indiana voters.

The case concerned a state law, passed in 2005, that was backed by Republicans as a way to deter voter fraud. Democrats and civil rights groups opposed the law as unconstitutional and called it a thinly veiled effort to discourage elderly, poor and minority voters -- those most likely to lack proper ID and who tend to vote for Democrats.

There is little history in Indiana of either in-person voter fraud -- of the sort the law was designed to thwart -- or voters being inconvenienced by the law's requirements. For the overwhelming majority of voters, an Indiana driver license serves as the identification.

"We cannot conclude that the statute imposes "excessively burdensome requirements' on any class of voters," Mr. Stevens said. Mr. Stevens' opinion suggests that the outcome could be different in a state where voters could provide evidence that their rights had been impaired.


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Posted by staff at April 28, 2008 11:22 AM