To link to this article, copy this persistent link:
(Apr 02, 2008) On April 28, the Supreme Court ruled that an Indiana election law requiring voters to present a government issued photo identification card is not unconstitutional on its face.
Indiana enacted a law known as "SEA 483" requiring voters to present a government issued photo identification card. The law allows voters without such identification to vote provisionally and have their vote counted if they subsequently visit the circuit courthouse to file an affidavit. In Indiana, driver's licenses or other photo identification can be obtained without charge, although one must present a birth certificate or other specified documentation. Several organizations and persons filed suits in federal court challenging SEA 483's constitutionality. The lower courts ruled that the statute was not unconstitutional, and the Supreme Court affirmed.
Although no one opinion garnered a majority, six Justices concurred in upholding SEA 483 against the claim that it was facially unconstitutional. The controlling plurality opinion was written by Justice Stevens, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy. Justice Stevens wrote that while it is strictly unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment for a state to require payment of money to exercise one's right to vote, evenhanded restrictions related to the integrity and reliability of the electoral process are evaluated by weighing the burden on voting against the interests identified by the state in imposing the regulation. The opinion found the state had legitimate interests in deterring and detecting voter fraud, modernizing election procedures, and safeguarding voter confidence. It weighed these interests against the burdens imposed by requiring photo identification. The opinion said that if the state required voters to pay for an identification card, the identification requirement would be unconstitutional, but that is not the case in Indiana. It found that for most voters, the burden imposed by the law is not substantial, but it is more severe on persons who lack ready access to their birth certificate or opportunity to obtain a photo identification card. Justice Stevens' opinion found that this burden is mitigated by allowing voters to submit provisional ballots and having the ballots count after visiting the circuit court clerk's office to sign an affidavit. The opinion said that on the existing record, the burden on this group of persons was not possible to quantify, and as a result there was insufficient evidence to warrant overturning the requirement as facially unconstitutional. Justice Stevens lastly noted the apparent partisan legislative motivation for the law, but concluded that valid neutral justifications for a nondiscriminatory law should not be disregarded simply because they were motivated by partisan interests.
A concurrent opinion by Justice Scalia, joined by Justices Thomas and Alito, argued that it was constitutionally irrelevant that the identification card requirement might have imposed a special burden on some voters.
Three Justices dissented. Justice Souter, joined by Justice Ginsburg, wrote that the law imposed significant burdens potentially on tens of thousands of Indiana voters, many of whom will be deterred from voting, and the state had failed to show the threats to the abstract interests they invoked outweighed these impediments. Justice Breyer separately dissented, writing that while the Constitution does not automatically forbid a state from requiring photo identification to vote, the difficulties of obtaining a photo identification card in Indiana are more restrictive than in other states, and the burden upon eligible voters lacking photo identification cards was disproportionate. (Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, No. 07-21 (April 28, 2008) available at http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/07pdf/07-21.pdf.)
|Author:||Luis Acosta More by this author|
|Topic:||Elections More on this topic|
|Jurisdiction:||United States More about this jurisdiction|
Search Legal News
Find legal news by topic, country, keyword, date, or author.
Global Legal Monitor RSS
Get the Global Legal Monitor delivered to your inbox. Sign up for RSS service.
The Global Legal Monitor is an online publication from the Law Library of Congress covering legal news and developments worldwide. It is updated frequently and draws on information from the Global Legal Information Network, official national legal publications, and reliable press sources. You can find previous news by searching the GLM.
Last updated: 04/02/2008