Thursday, September 17, 2009

Indiana Voter ID Law Struck Down . . . For Now

Here in Texas we have been watching as Indiana wrestles with its Voter ID law, which up until today was the law of the land in the Hoosier State. Up until today, voters in Indiana were made to provide some evidence that they were citizens of the United States and residents of Indiana.

Today an Indiana Court of Appeals struck down the Indiana law.

We in Texas are watching this because every time we have had a legislature working the past few sessions Republicans have attempted to force through a Voter ID bill of their own. In 2007 it passed in the State House and failed in the State Senate by one vote cast from a hospital bed occupied by Senator Mario Gallegos. A hospital bed wheeled into the Senate chamber for just such a purpose. In the legislative session just ended in late May, the Senate passed a rule allowing a less than 60% vote in order to bring a single bill to the Senate floor – that bill being the Voter ID bill. However, with near parity in the House this past year, it was the Democratic state reps with a thin margin of Republicans that blocked this heinous bill from passage.

So when a Voter ID bill comes under judicial review, we take notice.

In April 2008, the US Supreme Court voted 6-3 to uphold the Indiana law, finding that Indiana’s law is a reasonable reaction to the threat of voter fraud. Wrote Justice Stevens:

“The application of the statute to the vast majority of Indiana voters is amply justified by the valid interest in protecting the integrity and reliability of the electoral process.”

That notwithstanding, the League of Women Voters challenged the law under a new argument, the argument being a local one.

From the Indianapolis Star:

“The three-judge panel unanimously held that the requirement that voters present government-issued photo identification at the polls runs afoul of the Indiana Constitution's ‘Equal Privileges and Immunities Clause,’ which provides: ‘The General Assembly shall not grant to any citizen, or class of citizens, privileges or immunities which, upon the same terms, shall not equally belong to all citizens.’”

The argument goes that since the decision is a result of a judicial review of the law based on state-based claims, that the law flouts the state’s constitution, that the US Supreme Court cannot review the ruling of the Court of Appeals.

We’ll see.

First, all Indiana’s legislature has to do is alter the constitution to fix the things that the appeals court identified as being unconstitutional.

Such as requiring absentee voters also to provide proof of identity and requiring residents of a state-licensed care facility to provide proof identity, even though the polling place is in their care facility.

These were the two exceptions that were cited by the League of Women’s Voters that provided an “unequal privilege and immunity” in Indiana.

So really, this doesn’t do a thing for us in Texas. I am happy for the voters of Indiana, but await their retrogressive legislature to close the loophole on this.

I also suspect that the US Supreme Court will look askance on the view that this decision cannot be ruled on by the federal court, and therefore overturned. It is, after all, a court that was appointed by largely Republican presidents, and a court that has made federal intervention in state matters a matter of course. No matter what the Republicans say in public about states’ rights, it’s not about that at all.

It’s about who is in power.

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