In a case that could provide states guidance before November's presidential elections, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments Wednesday (Jan. 9, 2008) to determine whether Indiana and other states can require voters to present photo identification before casting their ballots.
The law has become a major flashpoint between Democrats and Republicans, with both sides claiming they're looking out for the best interests of voters.
Under the Indiana law, registered voters must present a government-issued photo ID — such as a driver's license — to take part in the elections. Voters without the proper identification can cast provisional ballots, but those count only if the voter shows a photo ID at a county election office within 10 days.
Republicans championed the Indiana effort, as well as similar laws in Georgia, Florida and Missouri (although Missouri's was struck down). If the high court strikes down Indiana's law, the other laws could be in jeopardy as well. The Republicans backing such measures say they're trying to reduce fraud and restore voter confidence in elections, especially after the disputed 2000 presidential election.
“Vote fraud is not a victimless crime. It diminishes and marginalizes the vote of every eligible voter who takes the time and effort to vote, and it undermines the legitimacy of the entire election process,” lawyers for the Republican National Committee wrote in a high court brief.
They say that showing a photo ID is a common part of modern life. People often need IDs to get new jobs, board airplanes, enter courthouses, buy alcohol or rent movies, they point out.
But Democrats argue that the laws are addressing a type of fraud that rarely, if ever, occurs. Individual voters don't often pose as other people in order to change the outcome of elections. Other voting shenanigans — such as stuffing ballot boxes, paying for votes or coercing people with absentee ballots — is much more common, they say.
“No one has ever been prosecuted for in-person voter fraud in Indiana's history. Nor has anyone ever cited a single episode of such fraud occurring in the state,” attorneys for the Indiana Democratic Party wrote in a high court brief.
Read the full report Partisan Colors Fly In Voter ID Case on Stateline.org's Web site.