Posted: January 5, 2007
Indiana Voter ID Requirement Upheld
Yesterday, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the United States District Court’s judgment
in the case of Indiana Democratic Party v. Rokita
. The judgment
issued by the Court of Appeals upholds Indiana’s voter ID law, which requires that any person desiring to vote in person present a government-issued photo ID.
Judge Posner wrote the majority opinion, with Judge Evans dissenting. The issues between them boiled down to two: Whether strict scrutiny or a more flexible standard applied, and whether the state had any legitimate interest at all in requiring photo ID.
Judge Posner rejected the Plaintiffs’ argument that the case deserved strict scrutiny, and instead applied a balancing test. He found that the law served a legitimate state interest because there was in Indiana “an acute danger” of voting fraud “provided by the discrepancy between the number of people listed on the registered-voter rolls in the state and the substantially smaller number of people actually eligible to vote.” Indiana’s previous practice of attempting to identify those entering the polls by making mere eyeball comparisons of their signatures with those on file was not enough to deter fraud: “[W]ithout requiring a photo ID, there is little if any chance of preventing this kind of fraud because busy poll workers are unlikely to scrutinize signatures carefully and argue with people who deny having forged someone else’s signature.” Posner refuted the Plaintiffs’ claim that there is no evidence of voter fraud in Indiana, and attributed the lack of reports of voter fraud to the underenforcement of minor criminal laws and the difficulty in apprehending people perpetrating such fraud.
To the majority, the law passed the balancing test because it would help deter fraud and the disenfranchising effect it might have, if any, is “slight.” Posner accepted the findings of the District Court that Plaintiffs’ evidence on the number of people disenfranchised was “totally unreliable.” According to him, at least some of the “disenfranchised” voters chose to “disenfranchise themselves rather than go to the bother” of obtaining proper ID.
In dissent, Judge Evans stated that the purpose of the law was “to discourage election-day turnout by certain folks believed to skew Democratic” and for that reason he would subject the law to strict scrutiny or at least “strict scrutiny light.” To him, the asserted justification of preventing voter fraud had to be a pretext, because there was no evidence of in-person voter fraud in the record. Without any compelling or even legitimate interest behind it, Evans determined the law imposed an undue burden on the right to vote.
Contributed by Nathan Cemenska and Paul Venard.