Indiana Civil Liberties Union and Broad Coalition Challenge State's New Voting Rights Rules

Affiliate: ACLU of Indiana
April 28, 2005 12:00 am

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Most Restrictive Rules in Nation Include Photo ID Requirement

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Civil Liberties Union, acting on behalf of a broad coalition including state representatives and advocacy groups, today filed a challenge to a new state law with the most restrictive voting requirements in the nation, including a mandate that government-issued photo identification must be presented in order for most Hoosier citizens to cast their ballots.

“This new requirement puts a substantial and unnecessary burden of time and cost for some potential voters, and thus clearly violates the federal Voting Rights Act, the United States Constitution and the Indiana Constitution,” said ICLU Legal Director Kenneth Falk.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of State Representative William Crawford, the Indianapolis Chapter of the NAACP, United Senior Action, Indianapolis Resource Center for Independent Living, Indiana Coalition for Housing and Homelessness Issues, the civil rights organization Concerned Clergy and Washington Township Board representative Joseph Simpson.

The groups say they represent Hoosiers who, because of cost, age or disability, will not be able to cast their ballots under Indiana’s new law. Although the law allows some photo ID’s to be obtained without cost from the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles, there is a cost to obtain birth certificates and other documents that are prerequisites for obtaining the BMV identification.

“After serving their country, many of the very people who fought in two World Wars to preserve Americans’ right to vote will be prevented from voting if this new law takes effect,” said Michelle Niemier, executive director of United Senior Action of Indiana, a statewide advocacy organization representing 14,000 dues-paying members. “To force thousands of older Hoosiers living in nursing homes, assisted living residences or even in their own homes but who no longer can physically get around to go to the absurd step of getting a ‘government issued’ ID is the biggest disservice I have heard of in a very long time.”

Melissa Madill, executive director of the Indianapolis Resource Center for Independent Living, said, “People living in supported and group home settings often do not have access to their ID’s. People experiencing mobility impairments, especially those living in rural areas, face transportation barriers making it nearly impossible for them to get to the license branch to acquire ID’s. Additionally, with an unemployment rate of nearly 70 percent, the poverty level of this population makes it difficult for them to ‘purchase’ state issued identification.”

Added State Representative Crawford: “I am honored to be a litigant in this suit to insure that no one is denied the right to vote based on unreasonable assumptions.”

The lawsuit asks for a court order preventing the new law from taking effect prior to any future elections. No hearing has been set yet, and the next scheduled elections in Indiana are primary elections in May, 2006.

Legal papers in the case are online at: scotus/2007term/ 32592res20071106/32592res20071106.html.

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