Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Very Dangerous Law

Crawford v. Marion County Election Board
"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 folks believed to skew Democratic."
Judge Terence Evans, 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, Dissenting Opinion, Crawford v. Marion County Election Board

On Wednesday, January 9, 2008 the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case captioned: William Crawford et. al. v. Marion County Election Board et. al. and the Democratic Party of Indiana et. al. This case was initiated by the Americal Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) along with the Democratic Party of Indiana in response to an onerous law passed by the Indiana State Legislature which requires that each and every voter show a government issued photo ID before casting a ballot (see: Indiana Public Law 109-2005). This may on its face, seem like a reasonable request, but it is problematic for at least two reasons: 1) the class of voter that would most likely to be burdened by this law is overwhelmingly poor, elderly, and more than likely a member of a minority group - all indicators that point to a demographic that historically has voted Democratic, and 2) the fraud that this law is meant to avoid has never been recorded nor observed in the entire history of elections in the Hoosier state or for that matter anywhere in the country.

Help America Vote Republican Act of 2002

Unfortunately the right-leaning Supreme Court gave every indication that that they would not only uphold this burdensome law, but may also sanction the party that brought the lawsuit (See: Justices Indicate They May Uphold Voter ID Rules, NYTimes, January 10, 2008). What can we do? Must we wait until someone is actually turned away at the polls and then file a lawsuit. This is the scenario that Justice Ginsburg was imagining when she made the following comment during oral arguments:“The reason they are bringing a facial challenge is because the horse is going to be out of the barn. They will have the election, and just what they are afraid of could happen — that the result will be skewed in favor of the opposite party.”

Why Elections Matter

This provides even more evidence of why elections matter. It was, after all, the Supreme Court that ended the vote counting that would have no doubt revealed that Al Gore was the true victor in 2000 and handed the presidency to George W. Bush. And the addition of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito have further skewered the court to the right, further politicizing the branch of government that arguably should be the least politicized branch of the three. Justice John Paul Stevens is still there - realizing that the balance of the court hangs in his retirement or god-forbid his death, but thankfully the Democratic-controlled Senate should be able to stave off an appointment to the High Court should Justice Stevens be unable to continue for any reason (see an earlier post on this blog: Long Live Justice John Paul Stevens).

This is just another important reason why we all need to work like hell to elect Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton or John Edwards - in other words, whoever the Democratic nominee is, to protect the judicial branch from becoming a tool of one party rather than the rarified and esteemed bench that it was intended to be.

See NYTimes Letter to the Editor: Should Voter ID Be Required?

For a complete list of links to all documents filed in this case, please see:

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