Constitutional law degrees aren’t necessary when mere common sense is sufficient to conclude, as did the U.S. Supreme Court Monday, that an Indiana law requiring a photo ID to vote “is amply justified by the valid interest in protecting ‘the integrity and reliability of the electoral voting process.’” The court thus affirmed on a 6-3 vote both common sense and the Constitution in recognizing that states have the right to safeguard ballot integrity.
The case at hand specifically involved an Indiana law requiring presentation of a photo ID before an Indianan can vote. Other states ought to take note of the decision and followthe Hoosiers’ lead.
Critics say that requiring photo ID at the polls somehow puts too onerous a burden on some voters, especially the elderly and indigent. But Federal District Judge Sarah Barker had previously noted that those filing the complaint had “not introduced evidence of a single, individual Indiana resident who will be unable to vote as a result of [the law].” For one thing, Indiana provides free photo IDs; for another, Indiana provides several other voting options (absentee ballots, provisional ballots) for those who, for whatever reason, lack photo identification. Other states concerned about voter fraud should copy those provisions.
The Court’s majority opinion — written by liberal Justice John Paul Stevens — makes clear that the panel will judge an ID law’s constitutionality based on its level of potential “burden” to a voter. As long as the burden is light and the goal (fighting vote fraud) legitimate, a photo ID requirement likely will pass muster. This can only encourage more honest and credible elections by insuring that one actual, living, honestly registered voter gets just one vote.
There can be no doubt, Justice Stevens wrote, that “not only is the risk of voter fraud real but that it could affect the outcome of a close election.” He cited “fraudulent voting in the 2003 Democratic primary for East Chicago [Indiana] mayor.”
Outside of Indiana, he could have cited dozens of other examples. Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund’s 2004 book “Stealing Elections” is full of such stories.
Our favorite is of the 2000 election in Missouri in which polls were held open in St. Louis for more than an hour past the usual closing time because of an affidavit from a “Robert Odom” saying that lines at his polling place made him unable to vote within the allotted time. But the only Robert Odom recently registered to vote in St. Louis had died more than a year before the election.
Monday’s decision, thank goodness, means that spurious arguments against reasonable identification laws are equally dead.