This is a disappointment, but not a surprise.
The Supreme Court ruled today that states can require voters to produce photo identification without violating their constitutional rights, validating Republican-inspired voter ID laws.
In a splintered 6-3 ruling, the court upheld Indiana’s strict photo ID requirement, which Democrats and civil rights groups said would deter poor, older and minority voters from casting ballots. Its backers said it was needed to prevent fraud.
The law “is amply justified by the valid interest in protecting ‘the integrity and reliability of the electoral process,'” Justice John Paul Stevens said in an opinion that was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy. Stevens was a dissenter in Bush v. Gore in 2000.
Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas also agreed with the outcome, but wrote separately.
Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter dissented, just as they did in 2000.
The case concerned a state law, passed in 2005, that was backed by Republicans as a way to deter voter fraud. Democrats and civil rights groups opposed the law as unconstitutional and called it a thinly veiled effort to discourage elderly, poor and minority voters — those most likely to lack proper ID and who tend to vote for Democrats.
There is little history in Indiana of either in-person voter fraud — of the sort the law was designed to thwart — or voters being inconvenienced by the law’s requirements. For the overwhelming majority of voters, an Indiana driver license serves as the identification.
“We cannot conclude that the statute imposes ‘excessively burdensome requirements’ on any class of voters,” Stevens said.
So you say. I respectfully disagree.
Indiana provides IDs free of charge to the poor and allows voters who lack photo ID to cast a provisional ballot and then show up within 10 days at their county courthouse to produce identification or otherwise attest to their identity.
Stevens said these provisions also help reduce the burden on people who lack driver’s licenses.
While I agree that this mitigates the bad effects to some degree, I don’t think it’s sufficient. Moreover, what’s the minimum requirement for a state that wants to pass a voter ID law to clear the not-too-burdensome hurdle? Does it have to try to distribute free IDs to people who don’t have driver’s licenses, or does it just have to make them available to those who can somehow travel to (say) a DPS field office to pick one up? Because I guarantee that when the Texas Lege tries again on this, it will do the very least it has to do to pass muster.