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License to Vote: Supreme Court to Hear Challenge to Voter ID Laws

David Blanding,
David Blanding, Racial Justice Program
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September 28, 2007

On Wednesday, we were pleased to learn that the Supreme Court agreed to hear Crawford v. Marion County Election Board and Indiana Democratic Party v. Rokita, cases that challenge Indiana’s voter ID law.

In 2005, the Indiana state legislature passed Public Law 109-2005, which requires that voters present a government-issued ID to vote in federal, state and/or local elections. A voter who does not have a government-issued ID may vote by provisional ballot, but must verify his identity at a county board of elections or circuit court within 10 days of the election for his vote to be counted.

In agreeing to hear these cases, the Supreme Court is acknowledging ongoing concerns that voter ID laws create unnecessary bureaucracy, and may disproportionately impact minorities, the elderly, and the poor.

According to the Department of Justice, only 120 of the more than 200 million people who cast ballots between 2002 and 2006 were charged with election fraud; among those, only 86 were convicted. Furthermore, despite upholding Indiana’s law, a Federal Appeals Court panel conceded that no one in the state has been prosecuted for in-person vote fraud. When the incidence of election fraud is marginal at best, there is no reason to babysit voters.

A 2005 study conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee found that 23 percent of people in that state over the age of 65 did not possess a driver’s license. And in the most populous county in the state, less than half of African-American and Latino adults possessed a driver’s license. Overall, as The New York Times recently suggested, as many as 22 million Americans of voting age would not be able to vote today if Indiana’s policy were instituted nationally.

Election fraud is not the pandemic states like Indiana believe it to be. However, states can minimize the risk of election fraud by better publicizing state voting laws, simplifying the registration process, and easing felony disfranchisement policies. If states want to protect the integrity of elections, they ought to invest in voter education, not voter taxation.

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