Monday, April 28, 2008

Republican Justices OK Voter ID Poll Tax

Whew! We can finally feel confidant that dead people, pets, students voting twice and bribed vagrants off the street will no longer game the election process like before. Now our vote will count like it never has before. Let’s take a look at the 6-3 Supreme Court decision upholding Indiana's law requiring voters to present a picture ID before they vote. The Associated Press listed these Justice’s comments on the pro side of a solution to a non existent problem:

“Justice John Paul Stevens, writing to uphold the law: "Indiana's own experience with fraudulent voting in the 2003 Democratic primary for East Chicago mayor — though perpetrated using absentee ballots and not in-person fraud — demonstrate that not only is the risk of voter fraud real but that it could affect the outcome of a close election."

I’m sorry, but Justice Stevens offered nothing in his argument for voter ID. He even said so. Am I hallucinating? ID’s are not required or even possible when using absentee ballots.

"The record says virtually nothing about the difficulties faced by either indigent voters or voters with religious objections to being photographed. ... In sum, we cannot conclude that the statute imposes 'excessively burdensome requirements' on any class of voters."

In the Justices opinion, there were too few voters who experienced problems with the law when they tried to vote.

"Petitioners have not demonstrated that the proper remedy — even assuming an unjustified burden on some voters — would be to invalidate the entire statute. In their briefs, petitioners stress the fact that all of the Republicans in the General Assembly voted in favor" of the law "and the Democrats were unanimous in opposing it. ... It is fair to infer that partisan considerations may have played a significant role in the decision to enact" the law and "if such considerations had provided the only justification for a photo identification requirement, we may assume" that the law "would suffer the same fate as the poll tax.”

“But if a nondiscriminatory law is supported by valid neutral justifications, those justifications should not be disregarded simply because partisan interests may have provided one motivation for the votes of individual legislators."

The key here is “valid neutral justification,” since again, voter fraud due to a lack of a picture ID has not been demonstrated to be a problem. What was obvious, mentioned by Justice Stevens, was the partisan nature of it. Are we expected to believe that politics was not an important element to voter ID legislation?

“Justice Antonin Scalia, concurring: "petitioners have not assembled evidence to show that the special burden is severe enough to warrant strict scrutiny…(the)petitioners' premise is irrelevant and that the burden at issue is minimal and justified."

Again, Justice Scalia actually believed that the harmful consequences of disenfranchised voters are not “severe” enough.

On the con side of this ideological solution to a fictional problem, Justice David Souter said in dissent: "Indiana's 'Voter, ID law' threatens to impose nontrivial burdens on the voting right of tens of thousands of the state's citizens, and a significant percentage of those individuals are likely to be deterred from voting. ... A state may not burden the right to vote merely by invoking abstract interests, be they legitimate, or even compelling, but must make a particular, factual showing that threats to its interests outweigh the particular impediments it has imposed. The state has made no such justification here, and as to some aspects of its law, it has hardly even tried."

Justice Stephen Breyer, dissenting: "I believe the statute is unconstitutional because it imposes a disproportionate burden upon those eligible voters who lack a driver's license or other statutorily valid form of photo ID."

The conservative stacking of the courts, long after the Republican Party has faded, is a legacy that will control Democratic legislation via challenges, for years to come.

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