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Editorial: Remove obstacles that discourage voters

Editorial Indiana Lawyer
August 4, 2010
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Indiana Lawyer Editorial

Casting a ballot in an election ought to be a simple thing for a citizen to do. But there are those who would make it as difficult as possible for some to exercise their franchise.

It strikes us that partisanship is at the heart of all of this work toward making it more difficult instead of easier to vote. Some may cite a lack of funding for not opening up satellite voting centers, and some may cite a need to prevent voter fraud as a reason for everyone to need to produce a photo identification at the polls, but both arguments come up short for us.

The ruling in the highly anticipated decision handed down in late June – League of Women Voters v. Todd Rokita – didn’t catch us by surprise. Lacking a plaintiff who has been harmed by the voter ID law, we would have been truly shocked had the Indiana Supreme Court ruled the other way.

For the majority, the decision to uphold the law appears to have been based on a simple case of a missing plaintiff, and yet we find ourselves drawn to this bit of the decision, written by Justice Brent Dickson: “Our decision today does not prevent any such voter from challenging the Law in the future.”

For those who seek to eventually overturn the voter ID law, we believe there is hope in that statement.

We wish that more of the justices, and we do not mean to disparage them here, had been able to see it Justice Theodore Boehm’s way. We appreciate this comment in Justice Boehm’s dissent: “A statute that wrongly denies any group of citizens the right to vote harms us all, and therefore may properly be challenged as invalid in its entirety, not merely as to those directly affected,” he wrote. “Thus I do not agree with the majority that the remedy the plaintiffs seek here – invalidating the voter ID requirement – is beyond their grasp.” He also believes that the only way that the photo identification requirement can be made is by amending the Indiana Constitution.

But it’s not just the identification one must have in order to cast a ballot that’s presently at issue. No, now it appears that satellite voting, which has been used to positive effect in the more populous regions of the state, is in danger of being scuttled entirely in Marion County for 2010.

Marion County Clerk Beth White, a Democrat, wants to open three satellite voting centers for the fall general election. It was Republicans most recently who pushed for the opening of satellite voting centers in advance of the 2008 general election. Now the lone Republican on the county’s Election Board is citing the lack of a process to safeguard and count votes, and the expense, as the reasons for not opening the voting centers this year, according to local news reports.

Both of those arguments strike us as disingenuous. Spending taxpayer dollars to make it easier for those taxpayers to vote sound like a good use of the people’s money, and the process for safeguarding the votes cast at satellite centers is the same one that has been used for years.

The decision to open satellite voting centers must be unanimous, and sadly, harmony among people of differing political parties appears to be a thing of the past.

“Today I call on both the Republican and Democratic parties to come together and work together” as the two major parties have in the past and make such voting centers possible for the 2010 general election, White said in a statement in late July.

Just once, we’d like to see that happen.

__________

Opinions: Readers may offer opinions concerning Indiana Lawyer stories and other legal issues. Readers may respond immediately by viewing the “submissions” section on our Web site: www.theindianalawyer.com. We reserve the right to edit letters for space requirements and to reproduce letters on Indiana Lawyer’s Web site and on online databases. We do not publish anonymous letters. Direct letters to editor Rebecca Collier at rcollier@ibj.com or 41 E. Washington St., Suite 200, Indianapolis, IN 46204.

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