Crawford

Crawford

Crawford

Slate's blog on legal issues.
April 29 2008 6:49 PM

Crawford

I just can’t muster up a lot of outrage about Indiana’s Voter ID law. Tim  is right that we have a de facto  national ID now.   The Indiana law is nothing like a poll tax: This law may or may not be attacking a nonexistent problem of voter fraud, but either way, it’s attacking it by requiring people to do something almost everyone would do, anyway.   

Jack, I thought David —like  Deborah —was saying that one of the injuries the Indiana law is correcting is the perception —warranted or not—of voter fraud. David’s point: That perception may well be in the way of other reforms to make voter registration and voting easier (example: the most commonly voiced objection to voting by phone or by the Internet is fraud—an ID requirement might address such concerns and lead to sensible reforms that would allow more people to actually vote).   Whether or not any such reform would be wise, maybe it’s better that the courts stay out of this and let the political processes at the state level work.  

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From this perspective, it’s a bad idea for the courts to require the state to show they’ve already implemented the reforms in order to"compensate" for the burdens of the voter ID law because 1) there’s little evidence of any more than minimal burden; 2) the point isn’t that the reforms would "compensate" for the burdens of the voter ID law—it’s that the reforms would be good in and of themselves (even if they, say, make it easier for different people to vote than the people burdened by the voter ID law); and 3) the ID law may be the precondition to the other reforms:  I f the state had to show that it had already taken steps to ameliorate the (possibility nonexistent) burdens, then it would never be able to generate the confidence that would smooth the way for the reforms.  

Another way of looking at this—maybe a formal voter ID law is better than voter eligibility requirements that are enforced ad hoc—either at the polls by overzealous poll watchers or after the fact through litigation challenging the results.   The ID law makes it simple to ensure that everyone who votes is who they say they are and to check and make sure no one votes twice, thus reducing the need for other types of (often discriminatory) enforcement and cutting the legs out from under potential litigation by the losers of the election. Echoing David:  S houldn’t the Constitution allow a state to make such a trade-off, at least unless someone can show actual and significant injury in the application of the law?