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Justice ponders importance of party-line vote

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As the Indiana Supreme Court justices considered the constitutionality of the state's voter ID law this week, one jurist wondered how much the legislative process might factor into the court's analysis of whether a statute is constitutional.

Justices heard arguments Thursday in League of Women Voters of Indiana and League of Women Voters of Indianapolis v. Todd Rokita, No. 49S02-1001-CV-50, which involves the highly controversial state statute passed by the Indiana General Assembly in 2005. It requires voters to show a state-issued photo ID before they're allowed to cast a ballot in person, and in the five years since that passage it's been upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States on federal grounds.

The Indiana Court of Appeals in September reversed a Marion County judge's decision on the issue, finding it unconstitutional because it doesn't equally apply to all voters and imposes qualifications that are too burdensome to some voters. Justices are considering those issues as they apply to the state constitution.

During oral arguments, Justice Frank Sullivan asked Indiana Solicitor General Tom Fisher about whether the party-line vote and legislative division factored into this analysis at all. The two were discussing how the state views the statutory requirements as a way to ensure integrity and reliability in the election process.

"Wouldn't we feel better about all of this if it hadn't been enacted on party-line votes, though?" Justice Sullivan asked.

Fisher responded that could be the case with any law, but he didn't see that as factoring into a statute's constitutionality.

"There's all kinds of laws, I'm sure over the years, that have been enacted that way, and if we started worrying about party-line votes we'd have a completely new category of constitutional challenges," he said. "What we've got here is a General Assembly, elected by the people to represent the people, that enacted a law that they thought fit the circumstances that best balanced competing concerns on access to ballots and election integrity. That's what the court is left with, and the court isn't in a position to look behind that and think about whether the motives were pure or there was enough bipartisanship. This isn't part of any constitutional analysis the courts have articulated."

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  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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