October 12, 2014 by JImbo
I was a bit confused on all the hooplah on the flurry of “Voter ID Law Overturned” headlines lately. I seemed to remember that some had been approved in the past.
It didn’t make sense.
Some applauded it as stopping an evil scheme to stop voters:
Some thought losing the laws would encourage more fraud:
I’m not a lawyer, but bear with me here. I’m trying to piece together the Supreme Court rulings that have come out on Voter ID laws recently. On the surface it didn’t make much sense why some states (North Carolina, Ohio) were allowed to keep their Voter ID laws, while others (like Wisconsin) couldn’t use theirs.
Also keep in mind that I wanted to compare apples to apples. There are widely changing State and Federal courts within the States that are more “Conservative” or “Liberal” depending on who appointed the political judges.
I am sticking to the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) rulings as those over-rule the State courts on Federal election issues.
I think I have a handle on this now, and I can simplify it some. Much help from this Boston Globe article by Mark Sherman. Also, lots of looking through blogs like the ElectionLawBlog. Further helpful details from the Washington Post and Redstate.com.
In addition, the inestimable Congressman Trey Gowdy as usual breaks it all down in his own classy way:
What is he talking about in the “political” aspects of this case? Let’s not get into the politics of the Voter ID Act for the moment. Suffice it to say that Democrats are against it. Republicans are for it.
No, the “politics” Mr. Gowdy is discussing is the TIMING of these rulings… a month before an election. The courts COULD have ruled before. They COULD have ruled after. They decided to rule a month before an election, AFTER some ballots had already gone out.
That’s the State and Federal courts fighting. The State courts are generally Republican in Republican states. The Federal courts are generally Democrat slanting and many appointed by the President.
That’s why I said the Supreme Court has to come down and rule on the cases. Otherwise it’s just a pissing contest between the State and Federal courts.
Let’s take the case the Supreme Court ruled on in Wisconsin. In this case, the actual Supreme Court ruling was brief. Just ONE PARAGRAPH. They make no references to any violation of the Constitution or any other problems with the law. They simply state that the change can’t be made THIS CLOSE TO AN ELECTION.
That is what is key. They refused to lift the halt order by the lower court this close to an election, after ballots had been mailed out. No mention is made of a repetition of the court. Indeed, the lawyers arguing the case seemed to focus on the immediate impacts of ballots going out without saying “You need photo ID to vote.”
In fact, there is nothing to stop Wisconsin from simply putting it back in AFTER the election. There will be a new challenge I’m sure in court, but the Supreme Court did not prevent it. They simply said you can’t change the rules in the final days before an election.
It’s about TIMING, not LEGALITY.
There are other states with Voter ID laws.
They made it through fine. North Carolina and Ohio made it through since they aren’t recent changes. The existing laws were reviewed and found to be legitimate, with “no undue hardship on low income voters.”
That is the key argument of the Democrats. They keep saying that low income voters “can’t get photo IDs.” That’s ludicrous.
Why? Because you can’t do THESE THINGS either! Are ALL of those things thereby illegal and presenting “undue hardship for poor people?”
Now before people say “well many of those are private things, not government”.. look again. The requirement for ID for those things are GOVERNMENT LAWS. The store doesn’t require you to have photo ID to buy alcohol, tobacco or guns. The STATE requires that.
And before they can sputter “Well you can CHOOSE not to buy booze and cigarettes!” well… number one that’s dumb. You’re still having your freedom impinged. However, there’s an even more compelling case.
You need ID to get ID. You have to show ID to get a Drivers License. Or apply for Welfare. Or to hold a rally (and use your Freedom of Speech)
Yes those are cases where I don’t think government SHOULD require anything from you, but they do. So, as long as you are required to show ID when driving and entering the Federal Building…. then you should be required to show ID to vote.
Think about that. You can’t USE THE COURTS without Photo ID. You can’t even get cough medicine! Yet voting is somehow different?
The Supreme Court is on my side. In 2008 they ruled in Crawford vs Marion County (Indiana) that it was a legitimate requirement for just those reasons I outlined above. The only caveat was that those who did have hardship would have a legal way around it.
Oddly there doesn’t even seem to be a “harmed party” in that case, as the Democrats couldn’t find any of those 300,000 “poor folks without IDs” that they keep talking about. So, without anyone to put on trial as the “harmed victim” a Democrat politician filed a class-action suit on behalf of “all those disenfranchised poor Democrat voters out there.” The ones that they couldn’t prove existed.
Does anyone seriously believe that 15% of the whole US population (47 MILLION PEOPLE) don’t have IDs? Even the 300,000 number still seems unreasonable. As shown above, are there 47 million POOR people who are NOT ON WELFARE? You need Photo ID to sign up for that too!
Anyway, the big picture here is that the Supreme Court agreed 6-3 that it was a reasonable law. In fact it would have been 7-2, but Justice Breyer said the law still needed to be tweaked a bit. He agreed in theory with it.
So what did the law say? Well law is a bit of a stretch. It was more of a few sentences of rules added to the Election Board procedures.
In a nutshell:
…all voters casting a ballot in person are to present a United States or Indiana photo ID. Vvoters who do not have a photo ID may cast a provisional ballot. To have their votes counted, they must visit a designated government office within 10 days and bring a photo ID or sign a statement saying they cannot afford one.
That last part was crucial. The dissenting justices claimed that it was “unreasonable” for a person to come in and sign a paper that said they didn’t have an ID. So, you see the debate isn’t even “ID or not”… it’s really…
CAN YOU MANDATE A PERSON SIGN A PIECE OF PAPER IN PERSON TO VOTE?
That’s an “unreasonable burden?”
Well, apparently the Supreme Court said it was A-OK in 2008. Then they cleared essentially the same rules passed in Ohio and South Carolina this year.
All of these “Voter ID laws are in trouble!” headlines are either ignorant or lying. Again, I’m not a lawyer but I do research. Sometimes I think that’s a lost art.
If I’m wrong here and I’ve missed some FACTS, someone please let me know. This is what I’ve been able to piece together from law scholars, Supreme Court rulings and open source media links.
It does make sense however.