Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Voter ID Requirement OK

Yesterday, in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, 553 US __ (2008), the US Supreme Court upheld an Indiana requirement that voters show government-issued identification at the polls. In a 6-3 split, the justices issues four separate opinions. The main opinion was written by Justice Stevens, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy, holding "we cannot conclude that the statute imposes "excessively burdensome requirements" on any class of voters." In a concurring opinion, Justice Scalia, joined by Justices Thomas and Alito, believed that the burden of requiring identification was minor, and the court need not consider "individual impacts" of a "general burden."

Justice Souter, joined by Justice Ginsburg, dissented, stating that some voters would certainly be disenfranchised. "A State may not burden the right to vote merely by invoking abstract interests, be they legitimate, or even compelling, but must make a particular, factual showing that threats to its interests outweigh the particular impediments it has imposed." In a separate dissent, Justice Breyer wrote, "I believe the statute is unconstitutional because it imposes a disproportionate burden upon those eligible voters who lack a driver’s license or other statutorily valid form of photo ID."

The decision does not compel all states to require identification; it merely permits states to do so. According to the Boston Globe, "in Massachusetts, the ruling is expected to do little in reversing long-held beliefs among many Democratic leaders that mandating voters to show IDs at the polls will disenfranchise many, particularly the elderly and the disabled."

More information on voting issues is available at Mass. Law About Elections and Voting.