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Plaintiff loses federal challenges to voter ID law

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A federal judge ruled against a Cumberland man in his federal challenge to Indiana's voter identification law, but did remand his pending state claims to a Marion Superior Court for consideration.

U.S. District Judge Larry J. McKinney in the Southern District of Indiana granted summary judgment April 16 for Marion County, Marion County Clerk Beth White, and the State of Indiana in Robbin Stewart's lawsuit challenging Indiana's statutory requirement that a person voting at the polls has to present a government-issued photo ID. Stewart has an acceptable form of identification but believes having to present it violates his rights.

Stewart argued in Robbin Stewart v. Marion County, et al., No. 1:08-CV-586, that the voter ID law violates the First, Fourth, 14th and 24th amendments of the U.S. Constitution. His challenges based on the First and 14th amendments are foreclosed by Indiana Democratic Party v. Rokita, 458 F. Supp.2d 775 (S.D. Ind. 2006), and Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, 553 U.S. 181 (2008). His challenge that the voter ID law is a poll tax also failed because the 7th Circuit already noted that it's not a poll tax in Crawford.

"Stewart already has a driver's license, which is a valid form of photo identification. Therefore, he has not been required to incur any extra costs to obtain a valid photo identification to present when voting and does not have standing to challenge any alleged fees which might be incurred by a person not similarly equipped with photo identification," wrote Judge McKinney.

Stewart's Fourth Amendment challenge failed because those rights aren't affected. Stewart had a choice when voting in person - present his driver's license and vote, or refuse to present it and choose to cast or not cast a provisional ballot. The encounter was consensual and had no impact on his rights, wrote the judge.

"Even if requiring identification at the polls does constitute a search, it still does not violate the Fourth Amendment," wrote Judge McKinney. "... the State of Indiana has an important interest in preventing voter fraud. Asking every voter who appears at the polls for identification in a consistent manner is a lawful means of serving this interest."

The federal judge decided not to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Stewart's pending claims under Indiana state law and remanded the case to Marion Superior Court for consideration. Last year, the Indiana Court of Appeals held that the voter ID law violates Article 1, Section 23 of the Indiana Constitution in League of Women Voters of Indiana, et al. v. Rokita, 915 N.E.2d 151 (Ind. Ct. App. 2009). The case is currently pending before the Indiana Supreme Court, which heard arguments in the case March 4.

Stewart, an attorney, was suspended in May 2009 for not fulfilling CLE requirements.

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