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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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  3. Law school is social control the goal to produce a social product. As such it began after the Revolution and has nearly ruined us to this day: "“Scarcely any political question arises in the United States which is not resolved, sooner or later, into a judicial question. Hence all parties are obliged to borrow, in their daily controversies, the ideas, and even the language, peculiar to judicial proceedings. As most public men [i.e., politicians] are, or have been, legal practitioners, they introduce the customs and technicalities of their profession into the management of public affairs. The jury extends this habitude to all classes. The language of the law thus becomes, in some measure, a vulgar tongue; the spirit of the law, which is produced in the schools and courts of justice, gradually penetrates beyond their walls into the bosom of society, where it descends to the lowest classes, so that at last the whole people contract the habits and the tastes of the judicial magistrate.” ? Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

  4. Attorney? Really? Or is it former attorney? Status with the Ind St Ct? Status with federal court, with SCOTUS? This is a legal newspaper, or should I look elsewhere?

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