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ACLU wants SCOTUS to hear Indiana voter ID case

May 17, 2007

The Supreme Court of the United States is now being asked to weigh in on Indiana's two-year-old voter identification law.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana and Indiana Democratic Party decided separately May 16 to seek certiorari in the case. Petitions are due in mid-July.

Discussion about the Hoosier suit's trek to the nation's highest court has circled since April 5 when the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago declined to rehear en banc the case Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, et al., No. 06-2218, which challenged the state's voter identification law that went into effect in July 2005.

That ruling was the latest in the legal scuffle initiated by Rep. William Crawford, D-Indianapolis, against Secretary of State Todd Rokita and the Marion County Election Board. The ACLU of Indiana had sued on behalf of those who could be impacted - possibly to the extent of not voting - by the law.

Opponents argued that the law would unfairly target people who might have trouble getting an ID, but U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker in April 2006 ruled the law doesn't infringe on anyone's right to cast a ballot. Her ruling said opponents had not produced evidence of a single person who would not be able to vote under the law.

The federal Circuit Court upheld her ruling and the state law Jan. 4, with one of the three panelists - Judge Terrence Evans - disagreeing. In that opinion, Evans wrote in a strongly worded dissent that the state law is a "not-too-thinly-veiled attempt to discourage election-day turnout by certain folks believed to skew Democratic. ... The potential for mischief with this law is obvious."

He also wrote the court should strictly scrutinize the law and strike it down as an undue burden on the fundamental right to vote.

The Indiana ACLU's legal director Ken Falk has spent the past two months researching similar cases and is aware of court challenges nationwide that are similar to Indiana's, including Georgia, Arizona." Many states are trying to adopt these ID-based requirements, and this is an issue that's being litigated across the country," he said. "It's something that will get up there at some point."

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