A story in the Washington Post details the partisan divide that exists over voter ID requirements that are being passed in several states and being challenged through the court system.
The Supreme Court will open the new year with its most politically divisive case since Bush v. Gore decided the 2000 presidential election, and its decision could force a major reinterpretation of the rules of the 2008 contest.
The case presents what seems to be a straightforward and even unremarkable question: Does a state requirement that voters show a specific kind of photo identification before casting a ballot violate the Constitution?
Even the judiciary appears to be divided along partisan lines. A recent challenge to an Indiana law drew makedly differing interpertations from judges appointed by the two parties.
“It is exceedingly difficult to maneuver in today’s America without a photo ID (try flying, or even entering a tall building such as the courthouse in which we sit, without one),” Circuit Judge Richard A. Posner, a Ronald Reagan appointee, wrote in deciding that Indiana’s strictest-in-the-nation law is not burdensome enough to violate constitutional protections.
His colleague on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, Bill Clinton appointee Terence T. Evans, was equally frank in dissent. “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,” Evans wrote.
The Indiana law is drawing scrutiny, and illustrates the severe nature of the divide on this question.
The Indiana case seems to offer a perfect example. The state’s Republican-led legislature passed the law in 2005 requiring voters to have ID, even though the state had never prosecuted a case of voter impersonation. Democrats there challenged the requirement as unconstitutional, although they have not produced a person who wanted to vote but was unable to do so because of the law.
Judge Posner, The Reagan appointee, confronted the issue directly in his opinion.
Even Posner alluded to the partisan nature of the debate. “No doubt most people who don’t have photo ID are low on the economic ladder and thus, if they do vote, are more likely to vote for Democratic than Republican candidates,” he wrote.
And so the Court will hear the case on January 9th. Are voter ID laws designed to supress Democratic turnout, and if no problem has been identified then what is the purpose of the law? Are Democrats trying to stuff ballot boxes by promoting participation by a large group of “ineligible voters”? Or are boith sides looking to gain that minute edge that can decide close elections?