ILNews

SCOTUS hears voter ID case

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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Arguments played out in the Supreme Court of the United States this morning on the legality of Indiana's voter identification law.

The nine justices heard an hour of arguments at 10 a.m. in the combined Hoosier cases of Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, No. 07-21, and Indiana Democratic Party v. Rokita, No. 07-25. Both challenge the state's three-year-old voter photo ID law that's been upheld by both U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker and the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Stakes are high. Courts have upheld voter ID laws in Arizona, Georgia and Michigan, but struck down Missouri's. Indiana has the strictest statute in the country, and the future of all these types of laws could come by late June, just in time for the general election in November.

Justices could use the case to guide courts on weighing claims of voter fraud against those of disenfranchisement, and many legal scholars point to this being the most significant voting-related case since the Supreme Court's bitterly divided decision Bush v. Gore, which clinched the 2000 presidential election for George W. Bush.

Indiana Solicitor General Tom Fisher argued for the state attorney general's office, and U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement also argued on behalf of the government. Washington, D.C., attorney Paul M. Smith - a partner at Jenner & Block who's argued a dozen times before the court - took on the petitioners' side for the Indiana Democratic Party and American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana.

Petitioners' attorneys, Ken Falk with the ACLU of Indiana and William Groth for the Democratic Party, sat in court and observed.

Indiana Lawyer could reach neither Groth nor Fisher for comment following the proceeding, but Falk said he wasn't surprised by the tone of the arguments.

Justices focused mostly on aspects of whether the burden is real and what justification exists for the law, Falk said. Several asked how attorneys could argue no potential fraud or disenfranchisement exists, and how many people this law could hinder. A general consensus from justices seemed that some people would be burdened, Falk said. Smith argued "quite forcefully" that no justification exists, he said.

"All three who argued got questions from the court that were all over the place and went back and forth," Falk said, noting that it's nearly impossible to predict an outcome.

Falk said the packed courtroom included a handful of Hoosier officials and attorneys, including Marion County Clerk Beth White, Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita, and Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter. Indiana Tax Court Judge Thomas G. Fisher also attended to watch his son's arguments.

After arguments, Falk was meeting with Senators Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to discuss the future of voter identification statutes in the country, according to the ACLU-Indiana's Web site.

More coverage of the arguments can be found online at the Indiana Lawyer Web site, as well as in the Jan. 23 print edition of the newspaper.
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  1. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  2. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  3. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  4. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

  5. Can I get this form on line,if not where can I obtain one. I am eligible.

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