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Justices hear voter ID case arguments

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Indiana Lawyer Rehearing

"COA strikes down law" IL Sept. 30-Oct. 13, 2009

The Indiana Supreme Court heard arguments March 4 about the state's controversial voter identification law, and is considering whether the requirements impose an unconstitutional burden on some voters who can't obtain the necessary photo ID cards.

The case is League of Women Voters of Indiana and League of Women Voters of Indianapolis, et al. v. Todd Rokita, No. 49S02-1001-CV-50, and comes after the Court of Appeals struck down the law in September.

Indiana Solicitor General Thomas M. Fisher argued that Indiana precedent from 1922 allows the legislature to regulate voting as needed, as long as the requirements aren't "grossly unreasonable and not practically impossible to comply with."

Meanwhile, Indianapolis attorney Karen Celestino-Horseman for the League of Women Voters said that if the justices send the case back to Marion Superior Judge S.K. Reid for it to proceed, the league would have more time to flush out those issues and explore evidence on both sides.

All five justices posed sharp questions to both sides.

"There is a whole group out there that effectively has been denied the right to vote," Justice Robert D. Rucker said. "How can you convince us this is a system of integrity, if so many people can't find a way to vote? How does that inspire confidence that it's a system we can trust and rely on?"

Justice Frank Sullivan also wondered why no individuals have come forward as plaintiffs in the three election cycles - six or seven actual elections - since this law took effect, and he also questioned why the state hasn't had any documented cases of in-person fraud if this is such a big issue.

That was a topic several justices' questions focused on. Recognizing that some burden may exist to prevent voters from obtaining the required ID to cast a ballot in-person, they hesitated on procedural issues since the case doesn't include any affected voters as plaintiffs.

"Should people have to go to that kind of trouble, just to exercise that single most fundamental right?" Justice Sullivan asked rhetorically. "(It's) a lot to have to go through just to do that. It seems like there's a real hardship on those people to produce those documents required. But on this record, we don't have those people before us."

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