Indiana Voter ID Law Upheld

The ever-growing Chomsky wing of the Democratic Party is filled with conspiracy theories.  And there is no conspiracy theory that emboldens them more than the theory that the Diebold Corporation is somehow ensuring massive Republican victories by committing voter fraud on a nationwide basis (I guess they took 2006 off).  Just performing a Google search for Diebold reveals a Mother Jones article from 2004 referring to Diebold’s Political Machine, a 2007 article revealing that the Diebold voting key can be copied from the firm’s online store, and an article giving advice on “Targeting Diebold with Electronic Civil Disobedience.”  I just reviewed the first three pages, at which point I got bored.  If you are having a slow morning, google ‘diebold fraud’ and have your morning chuckles.

But real voter fraud is no laughing matter.  Despite the overheated rhetoric from the left, there is strong evidence that it happens regularly.  Few can forget evidence of the dead voting and electing Ophelia Ford to the Tennessee state senate.   In Milwaukee, investigators are unable to explain how 4,500 more ballots were cast than voters showed up to the polls, and have established that 100 voters used fake names, voted twice, or used a dead person’s name .  And fraud can make a difference: Bush’s losses in Wisconsin were by 11,000 votes in 2004 and 5,000 in 2000. Both could have been due to fraud..

Democrats have long opposed Republican efforts to combat voter fraud by requiring a photo ID (among other proposals).  Such efforts, they argue, could potentially suppress the vote of minorities, the old, and the infirm.  As such, according to Democrats, these laws are constitutionally infirm.

The Supreme Court of the United States delivered a stinging rebuke to these arguments.  In Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, the Supreme Court rejected a facial challenge to Indiana’s voter ID law, which required that voters show a photo id before being allowed to vote.  The Court split into three blocs of three.  The first bloc, consisting of Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, and Souter, would have struck down the voter ID law.  According to Justice Souter, the requirement that voters go to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles in order to get a driver’s license placed a serious burden on certain voters’ ability to vote.  Justice Souter also found that there was scant evidence of voter fraud, echoing the views of many on the left.  Because of this, Justice Souter reasoned, there were no circumstances under which the law could be valid.

Justice Breyer’s opinion was more measured.  He argued that Indiana’s photo ID requirements were more onerous than other states’.  But he left open the possibility that he would vote to uphold laws in these other states.

Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito joined together for a brief six page opinion concurring in the judgment that upheld the law.  Under Justice Scalia’s view, because the burden on voters was “minimal and justified,” the law passed constitutional muster.  This bloc argued that the law itself treated all voters the same, although the impact of the law was felt differently by different economic groups.

That left an odd assortment of justices for the majority.  Justice Stevens wrote the opinion, joined by Justice Kennedy and Chief Justice Roberts.  The plurality was unwilling to accept that Indiana’s photo identification law was per se constitutional, and left open the possibility for a so-called “as-applied” challenge to the law.  The decision concluded that a challenge to a voter identification law need only show plausible non-discriminatory interests.  Thus, the disputed evidence over the scope of voter fraud was sufficient to uphold the law, as was the state’s interest in maintaining voter confidence in the system.

Arrayed against this, the Court said that an individual voter could challenge the law only if that voter showed a serious impingement on that particular voter’s right to vote.  In other words, a plaintiff must show that the law, as applied to him or her, infringed upon his right to vote.  

This victory continues conservatives’ good run of Supreme Court decisions dating back to last term, most recently seen with the Court’s decision validating the use of lethal injection as a means of administering the death penalty.  Chief Justice Roberts has been in the majority in 23 of the Court’s 24 decisions this term, the most of any Justice.  Oral argument gave promising appearances for conservatives in the DC gun ban case and the “execution of child rapists” case.  Some predicted that Chief Justice Roberts’ appointment to the bench would mark a sea change in the Court’s direction, as his reasonable demeanor and sharp intellect pulled the other justices (especially Kennedy) rightward.  There is growing evidence that this could be the case.