With Justices' OK, Voter ID Moves Ahead

A decision April 28 by the U.S. Supreme Court to let Indiana demand photo identification from voters paves the way for other states to do the same during November's presidential election, experts say.

The court's 6-3 decision (in Crawford et al. v. Marion County Election Board et al.) leaves the door open for future legal challenges, if proof is presented that voters couldn't cast their ballots because of the new rules -- evidence that the court said was missing from the Indiana case. But the court didn't specify how many people must be affected for it to consider striking down the law.

"It's going to be an uphill battle for anybody who would want to [challenge the Indiana law] just because the state interests are so strong" in holding fraud-free elections, said Indiana Solicitor General Tom Fisher. Fisher defended the law at oral arguments before the high court.

Vermont Secretary of State Deborah L. Markowitz, a Democrat who weighed in against the restrictions, said lawmakers in other states might press ahead with pursuing similar measures after getting the all-clear from the high court.

Currently, only Indiana, Georgia and Florida require voters to show photo identification at the polls. Missouri passed a similar law, but it was struck down by the state supreme court.

"There are already bills pending in legislatures across the country. The fear is that this will breathe new life into some of those efforts," Markowitz said.

Overall, Monday's decision means the Hoosier State will continue to use its controversial 2005 law, which took effect in time for the 2006 general election and the 2007 municipal elections. The identification checks will be used again in the May 6 primary election. There are several heated contests for Democrats on that day, including those for an Indianapolis congressional seat, governor and president.

Monday's decision marks the second time in little more than a month that the Supreme Court decided to let a state go ahead with a controversial election law. On March 18, the court approved Washington state's use of a "top-two" primary over the objection of the state's political parties. Under this system, the top two vote-getters in state primaries advance to the general election, regardless of their political affiliations.

Read the full report With Justices' OK, Voter ID Moves Ahead on Stateline.org's Web site.

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