Wanna Vote?

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And you think all you need to do is make sure you register in time? Well, there’s a case being argued in the Supreme Court tomorrow that could have a lot to say about how many hoops the government is allowed to put you through when you show up at the polls. It’s called Crawford v. Marion County Election Board (actually, it’s two cases that have been combined; the other one is Indiana Democratic Party v. Todd Rokita, Indiana Secretary of State). The case has to do with whether an Indiana statute, which contains the most restrictive voter ID barriers in the nation, places an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote.

Read more below.

The statute is a doozy. It requires voters to bring to the polls a current, Indiana state government-issued photo ID that includes an expiration date and a name that conforms to the name in the individual’s voter registration record. Student IDs from private colleges won’t work, because they’re not state-issued; state school student IDs that don’t have expiration dates won’t work either. Students who are from out of state and don’t have Indiana drivers’ licenses are out of luck — as are students that don’t have driver’s licenses at all.

Starting to feel like the cards might be stacked against students who want to exercise that most profound of privileges in a democracy — the right to vote? Have no fear, if you don’t have an Indiana drivers license yet, you can always get one — or something called a non-driver’s identification — in time to vote. All you need to do is go to the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles and present two forms of identification, one of which needs to be a “primary” document, like a certified birth certificate (you always have that certified birth certificate handy, don’t you?) and the other of which is a secondary document, like a utility bill or rent receipt showing that you live where you say you live (oh, you live in a dorm or you sublet, so you don’t have the secondary documents?). And then, once you have the certified birth certificate and the secondary document that proves you live where you say you live, all you need is proof of a social security number (either the card itself or a verified letter issued by the Social Security Administration).

And you thought the 26th Amendment gave 18-year-olds the right to vote and to have that right protected? Get the feeling that they really don’t want students to vote? Well, you’ve got good company. When the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals considered the case — and upheld the law — the court, in an opinion written by Judge Richard Posner (a Reagan appointee) and joined by Judge Diane Sykes (a George W. Bush appointee) dismissed the idea that the Indiana restrictions would create an undue burden on certain groups of voters — like students, the elderly, low income voters, among others. Judge Terence Evans (a Clinton appointee) in dissent said: “Let’s not beat around the bush: the Indiana voter photo ID law is a not-too-thinly-veiled attempt to discourage election day turnout by certain folks believed to skew Democratic.” And, as Judge Evans noted, all of this was justified in the name of preventing voter fraud even though “no one — in the history of Indiana — had ever been charged” with the crime of voter fraud.

And one of the biggest problems is that the decision the Court makes in this case, won’t just affect voters in Indiana. The fact is that legislators in many, many states are poised to try to enact similarly restrictive laws, if the Court gives the go-ahead.

That’s why People For the American Way Foundation has filed what’s called an amicus brief — a friend of the Court brief — in support of those challenging the Indiana law. If you’re interested, you can read that brief here. And that’s why Rock the Vote, the National Black Law Students Association, the National Black Graduate Student Association, the Feminists Majority Foundation, and the Student Association for Voter Empowerment, have also filed an amicus brief specifically devoted to making the case for how the Indiana statute disenfranchises young adult voters. If you’re interested in other information about important cases currently before the Court, visit People For’s Court Watch site.

So, bottom line — decisions of the Supreme Court really do matter. The Bush v. Gore decision in 2000 is a pretty good example of that. And now here’s another really good example.

Hopefully, the Court will agree with our arguments — but with the dramatic shift to the right of the Court, we certainly can’t count on it. That’s when PFAW Foundation’s sister organization, People For the American Way, will have to re-double its efforts to make the case in state legislatures around the country to head off efforts to pass Indiana-type laws.

Protecting the right to vote is hard work — requiring round the clock vigilance, 365 days of the year!

Round-the-clock vigilance...

366 days of the year in a leap year like 2008! Just thinking about it makes me tired.

In law school

my Contracts professor was all about the "law and econmics" school and Judge Posner. After reading this I'm sure Posner's the darling of the right-wing election law crowd too.

Bah

I wonder how Kennedy is going to vote on this one.

That's what these Supreme Court results are coming to, these days: "How do we react to the 4 monolithic votes of the Roberts bloc"?

Update: The weak case for voter ID

Thought this item from Talking Points Memo on the weak case for voter ID might be of interest:

http://www.tpmmuckraker.com/archives/005040.php

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