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Indiana voter ID law differs from recent overturned rulings

August 8, 2016

Indiana's voter identification law differs from recently overturned laws in other states that legal experts say have caused disenfranchisement among minorities.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld Indiana's law in the 2008 decision in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, inspiring more strict laws that federal courts have struck down, the Bloomington Herald-Times reported.

Michael Pitts, a professor of law and a dean's fellow at Indiana University's Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis, said the state's voter ID law provides ways to get around showing photo identification.

People older than 65 can vote an absentee ballot via mail without showing identification, and there's an opportunity to sign an affidavit saying a person can't obtain an ID because of serious financial limitations or religious objections to being photographed.

The same can't be said for laws that followed the 2008 decision upholding Indiana's law, experts said.

Luis Fuentes-Rohwer, a professor of law and Harry T. Ice Faculty Fellow at Indiana University's Maurer School of Law in Bloomington, said the landscape has changed since the April 2008 U.S. Supreme Court ruling and people can now show how some of these laws have caused deprived minorities the right to vote.

Beth Cate, an associate professor at IU's School of Public and Environmental Affairs, said the recent cases show that Congress needs to enact new standards to rein in states that would enact laws disproportionately affecting ethnic and racial minorities.

Pitts said that in the recent cases, courts largely have tended to make narrow revisions or write opinions that apply in certain instances. That kind of challenge is a high legal standard that's difficult to meet, according to Cate.

Experts said that none of this means that someone couldn't be successful by challenging the state law, but that the scenario isn't likely.

"Somebody would need to present better proof that a decent number of people who want to vote are having trouble getting the identification necessary to vote in the state of Indiana, and that proof has yet to be generated," Pitts said.
 

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