[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Monday let stand Indiana's controversial voter identification statute [Indiana SOS backgrounder, PDF], which requires voters to present photo identification as a prerequisite to voting. The decision comes in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board [LII case backgrounder; JURIST report], where the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upheld [JURIST report] the law in 2007, ruling that it does not put an undue burden on the right to vote and therefore does not violate the US Constitution. Supporters of the law have said that voter identification can be used to deter voter fraud, but its critics have argued that the legislation makes it difficult for minorities, the elderly and the impoverished to participate in elections.
In affirming the federal appeals court ruling, Justice Stevens wrote:
We are, however, persuaded that the District Court and the Court of Appeals correctly concluded that the evidence in the record is not sufficient to support a facial attack on the validity of the entire statute, and thus affirm.
In a separate concurrence in the judgment, Justice Scalia wrote:
The lead opinion assumes petitioners' premise that the voter-identification law "may have imposed a special burden on" some voters, … but holds that petitioners have not assembled evidence to show that the special burden is severe enough to warrant strict scrutiny…. 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.
The universally applicable requirements of Indiana's voter-identification law are eminently reasonable. The burden of acquiring, possessing, and showing a free photo identification is simply not severe, because it does not "even represent a significant increase over the usual burdens of voting." … And the State's interests … are sufficient to sustain that minimal burden. That should end the matter. That the State accommodates some voters by permitting (not requiring) the casting of absentee or provisional ballots, is an indulgence – not a constitutional imperative that falls short of what is required.
Justice Stevens announced the judgment of the Court; his opinion [text] was joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy. Justice Scalia filed an opinion concurring in the judgment [text], which was joined by Justices Thomas and Alito. Justice Souter wrote a dissent [text] and Justice Breyer filed a separate dissent [text]. AP has more.
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.
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