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Judge declines to interfere with voter ID law

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A federal judge in Indianapolis won't interfere with the state law requiring voters to show photo identification at the election polls.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Larry McKinney denied a temporary injunction request from a Cumberland attorney and resident who is challenging Indiana's 3-year-old voter ID law that's been upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States.

Plaintiff Robbin G. Stewart filed the suit in April in Marion County, though it was later removed to the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana, to resolve the multiple federal and state constitutional claims. In September, Stewart asked the judge for one of three potential relief options: that he be allowed to vote without showing the required photo ID; that the state and county be required to count all provisional ballots cast by those not showing photo ID; or that the state not be allowed to enforce the voter ID law during the Nov. 4 general election.

Judge McKinney heard arguments Oct. 14 in Robbin Stewart v. Marion County, et al., No. 1:08-cv-586-LJM-TAB, and took the matter under advisement.

In his 10-page ruling, Judge McKinney rejected each of Stewart's arguments and found that he didn't represent a class of any similarly situated Hoosier voters and that he didn't adequately show any hardship in obtaining a photo ID. The court referenced how Stewart himself had obtained a valid license, and that meant he can vote and wouldn't suffer any irreparable injury by this injunction denial.

Turning to the landmark ruling issued earlier this year in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, 128 S.Ct. 1610 (2008), Judge McKinney noted the reasoning in that facial challenge case applies to Stewart, even though he'd asserted this as an as-applied challenge that survives the Crawford scrutiny.

"Plaintiff has not designated any evidence to demonstrate a burden that, on balance, outweighs the State's interest in protecting against voter fraud," the judge wrote.

Judge McKinney also rejected Stewart's federal constitutional claims that the state law violates the First and 21st Amendments, finding that the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago had explicitly held in Crawford that the law isn't a poll tax and that all courts had decided it didn't violate the First Amendment.

On a claim that the law violates the Fourth Amendment on search and seizures, the judge pointed out that Stewart did not cite a single case holding that poll workers must have probable cause before requiring voters to produce a valid photographic ID, and as a result he didn't show he could win on that claim.

The judge also rejected Stewart's state constitutional claims, finding that he didn't cite adequate legal authority and has not demonstrated any likelihood of success on the merits.

"I'm disappointed but not shocked," Stewart said about the judge's ruling. "The case is still alive; it's not like he dismissed it or anything. The next step is to take this to the 7th Circuit for some preliminary relief."

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