As the Indiana polls opened at 6:00 am on May 6, opponents of Indiana’s Photo ID law eagerly anticipated word from our more than 5,500 precincts that the state’s requirement that all voters show a photo ID at the polls was causing havoc. It’s what they told the United States Supreme Court would happen. To them, it was time to watch Indiana’s most highly anticipated presidential primary in generations collapse under the weight of the requirement.
In Indiana, our election officials and voters are fully committed to increasing confidence in and the integrity of our elections. We have invested a great deal of time, money, and energy over the last few years in needed improvements to our election processes. The central component to this effort is the preservation of the fundamental right of each citizen over the age of 18 to have ONE vote, and to have that vote count.
In recent years, sweeping reforms and improvements to the way we administer elections have included new voting systems in all 92 counties, improved accessibility of polling places, educational outreach and training, and absentee ballot reform. One of the most significant and important reforms has been our photo identification law, which requires voters to prove their identity by presenting a photo ID before casting a ballot.
One week prior to Indiana’s primary elections, the United States Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s photo ID law. The Justices agreed that, with our law, Indiana is paving the road to better voter confidence for states by preventing in-person voter fraud.
Jeffrey Milyo, a professor of economics and public affairs at the University of Missouri, had noted in a recent study that overall voter turnout in Indiana has actually increased since the implementation of the photo ID law. I attribute this directly to voters having better confidence in the process, and therefore, being more willing to invest their time in it.
Several other studies by organizations like the Universities of Nebraska and Delaware and the Heritage Foundation tell us requiring ID at the polls does not reduce voter turnout.
On May 6th, opponents to the law were left disappointed. Indiana experienced one of its highest turnouts ever for a primary election. Turnout increased from 21 percent in the 2004 primary to around 40 percent for the 2008 primary. Presumably, the hotly contested Democratic presidential primary brought scores of new voters to the polls. Nearly 76 percent of the participants took part in the Democratic primary. By comparison, in 2004, only 40 percent of those who participated voted in the Democratic primary.
Simply put, Indiana voters showed up by the hundreds of thousands to fulfill their civic duty with a photo ID in hand. According to our figures, the number showing up to vote without ID continues to be miniscule, dropping slightly even from previous elections when the rate has been two-tenths of a percentile. In fact, opponents of the concept of having a voter identify his or herself still cannot produce one voter who has experienced a violation of his or her rights.
The deadline to file recounts with the state recount commission has passed. Despite close contests in both the Democratic presidential race as well as that party’s gubernatorial primary, no one has filed for a recount. No one has found reason to question the results our closely watched, closely contested statewide election.
With the Supreme Court’s decision, election leaders across the country can now confidently move forward with their efforts to protect voters and improve the integrity of the election process. Mississippi, Missouri, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Kansas, Illinois, Oklahoma and Texas are all states where photo ID requirements were debated and voted on in legislatures this year, and scores of other states have called my office wanting details on the law.
Sure, my staff was in place before sunrise on primary day, ready to ensure a smooth election by helping voters find their polling places, answering questions, and looking into any polling place issues that would come up. But of the more than 1,300 calls we took that day from voters, only two even related to enforcement of Indiana’s photo ID law — neither demonstrating that someone was shut out from voting.
And even if they were, photo ID opponents fail to point out one very important Federalist notion – that states have the right to put parameters on, and therefore, introduce order into their electoral processes. To not do so would allow chaos to ensnarl the process, rendering it useless. Results would be in doubt and voter confidence shredded. The likelihood of increased participation would dwindle.
Indiana has now conducted eight successful elections since the passage of the photo ID law. There has not been one proven instance of a voter who was unable to exercise his or her right to vote due to the law. The law itself helps prevent this, including provisions to allow voting by those who forget their ID, can’t make it to the polls on Election Day, or who have religious objections to being photographed. The well-publicized nuns in South Bend, who were reportedly unable to vote during this year’s primary election due to not having proper photo ID indeed had the opportunity under the law to cast a provisional ballot and have their votes count by producing ID within ten days. This is eight days longer than Jimmy Carter even suggested when the Carter-Baker Commission suggested photo ID was needed in the polling to boost election integrity and participation. Sadly, they all waived this right to participate in the election process.
Indiana’s photo ID law is our state’s means of protecting the integrity of elections in a manner that creates the least burden for citizens. Furthermore, it’s a right and duty given to us by the 10th Amendment. It is about ensuring accuracy through increased integrity. It’s a 21st century way to manage our election process that gives us confidence again in exercising our franchise — our most sacred civic transaction. I look forward to an exhilarating 2008 general election with this issue finally settled.