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Supreme Court hears voter photo ID, age discrimination cases

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments Wednesday in the consolidated cases of Crawford v. Marion County Election Board [LII backgrounder; merit briefs], 07-21, and Indiana Democratic Party v. Rokita [docket], where the Court considered the constitutionality of Indiana's controversial voter identification statute [Indiana SOS backgrounder, PDF] which requires voters to present photo identification as a prerequisite to voting. Supporters of the law say that voter identification can be used to deter voter fraud, but its critics argue that the legislation makes it difficult for minorities, the elderly and the impoverished to participate in elections. The Supreme Court justices seemed unwilling to strike down the voter ID requirement with Justice Kennedy equating the requirement to a minimal inconvenience. The lack of evidence of voter fraud prompted Justice Alito to express his concern that "there is nothing to quantify the extent of the problem or the extent of the burden." The law's requirement that voters who lack identification visit the county courthouse within 10 days of an election and sign a sworn statement to have their ballot counted led Justice Ginsburg to question whether such a burden needs to be imposed on the relatively few people affected by the law. The case should be decided in time for the November 2008 elections.

In January 2007, the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upheld [JURIST report] the law, ruling that it does not put an undue burden on the right to vote and therefore does not violate the US Constitution. In October 2006, the Supreme Court ruled in a per curiam opinion [PDF text] that Arizona could enforce its voter ID law [JURIST report], which requires voters to show government-issued voter ID cards [JURIST news archive] at the polls. Voter ID laws have been also been upheld in Georgia and Michigan, but struck down in Missouri. Currently, more than 20 states require some form of voter identification at the polls. AP has more.

The Supreme Court also heard oral arguments Wednesday in Kentucky Retirement Systems v. EEOC [LLI backgrounder; merit briefs], 06-1037, on whether the use of age as a factor in a retirement plan is facially discriminatory and in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) [text]. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) [official website] brought suit against a number of Kentucky state agencies who administer the state retirement program because the retirement program distinguishes among recipients, in part, based on age. The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, sitting en banc, held [PDF text] that the retirement program in question violated the ADEA.

4:15 PM ET - Transcripts of Wednesday's oral arguments are now available for Crawford and Kentucky Retirement Systems [PDF texts].

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