Dan Tokaji's Blog
Professor Dan Tokaji
Election reform, the Voting Rights Act, the Help America Vote Act, and related topics -- with special attention to the voting rights of people of color, non-English proficient citizens, and people with disabilities

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Equal Vote
Friday, April 29
 
Indiana Photo ID Lawsuit
The Indiana Civil Liberties Union has brought suit to challenge that state's recently enacted law requiring voters to show photo identification. The complaint can be found here, and the Indianapolis Star has this story.

The lawsuit was brought in a state court in Marion County, on behalf of individual voters, the NAACP, and organizations representing senior, disabled, poor, and homeless voters. It raises claims under the Voting Rights Act, the Indiana Constitution, and the U.S. Constitution.

The complaint challenges Indiana's Senate Enrolled Act No. 483, which requires voters to show photo identification issued by the State of Indiana or the federal government, asserting that this requirement is a "de facto poll tax." Plaintiffs note the lack of evidentiary support for the proposition that identity fraud is widespread, or that existing measures are inadequate to deal with such fraud.

The act does provide that photo ID will be issued without charge by the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles to those who don't have it. But as I've previously explained, requiring voters to stand in one line at the BMV for the privilege of possibly standing in another line once they go to vote effectively imposes a tax on the voters' time. It's a burden that many voters won't bear, which is presumably why the bill was passed on a straight party-line vote: Republican legislators are banking that Democrats are more likely to lack ID and won't go to the trouble of getting it.

My take: While posing as an anti-fraud measure, the Indiana bill is really a naked attempt to disenfranchise voters, and ought to be struck down under the Equal Protection Clause. The Supreme Court hasn't ruled on the constitutionality of such measures before, but the logic of Harper v. Virginia should apply. That case struck down Virginia's poll tax on the ground that it imposed a burden on poor voters. In much the same way, the Indiana bill imposes a special burden on particular groups of voters -- including seniors, people with disabilities, and those who are poor -- with precious little evidence that its strict photo ID requirement is needed to curb fraud.

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Moritz College of Law The Ohio State University