Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Supremely Partisan Court

I'm in the middle of Jeffrey Toobin's book on the Supreme Court, The Nine, so the partisan intrusion by the Court into the electoral process in the 2000 Bush vs. Gore case has been recently recalled for me, in all of its infamous "glory."

Acting again to ensure that the Republicans maintain as much control over the electoral process as possible, the Supreme Court upheld a voter ID requirement, enacted by a Republican controlled state legislature in Indiana intended to "prevent fraud" -- or code for the ability to impede the poor and minorities from easily exercise their voting rights.

The SCOTUS Blog describes the result in Court rejects voter ID challenge:

The Supreme Court, voting 6-3, on Monday rejected a constitutional challenge to Indiana’s law requiring voters to show a government-issued photo ID before they may cast a ballot.

* * * *

The voter ID ruling may turn out to be a significant victory for Republicans at election time, since the requirement for proof of identification is likely to fall most heavily on voters long assumed to be identified with the Democrats — particularly, minority and poor voters. The GOP for years has been actively pursuing a campaign against what it calls “voter fraud,” and the Court’s ruling Monday appears to validate that effort, at least in part. The main opinion said states have a valid interest in preventing voting by those not entitled to do so, even if there is no specific proof of that kind of fraud in the state.

While the Court’s main opinion said it was “fair to infer that partisan considerations may have played a significant role” in enacting the photo ID law, it went on to say that that law was neutral in its application and was adequately supported by the justifications the state had offered.

Got that? Even though everyone knows that this law was an intentional attempt on the part of partisan Republicans to suppress votes, because they were able to cobble together a semblance of an excuse to justify what they did, it's OK.

As the NYTimes observed, In a 6-to-3 Vote, Justices Uphold a Voter ID Law:
The 6-to-3 ruling kept the door open to future lawsuits that provided more evidence. But this theoretical possibility was small comfort to the dissenters or to critics of voter ID laws, who predicted that a more likely outcome than successful lawsuits would be the spread of measures that would keep some legitimate would-be voters from the polls.

Voting experts said the ruling was likely to complicate election administration, leading to both more litigation and more legislation, at least in states with Republican legislative majorities, but would probably have a limited impact on this year’s presidential voting.
See also, Supreme Court: States free to require photo IDs for elections.

I guess the best that can be said is to echo the sentiments of Michael Froomkin at Discourse.net:
My first reaction to today’s decision in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board is that it is not as bad as it could be. But then, my expectations for this Supreme Court are pretty low.


Struggle For Justice said...

Usually a "court of law" is regarded as a place where justice
can be secured, but that may be a naive assumption. Two congressional resolutions were nothing more than schemes
to circumvent the US Constitution.

#1-The Gulf of Tonkin

#2-The (pre-emptive) Iraq

Astonishingly, neither
has ever been challenged.

Susan said...

I would like to agree with you on this. But I am with the Court majority: There should be at least one person who can make a colorable claim that he/she would have voted but for ID requirement which imposed undue burden. And I am not sure what should be considered undue. Young profs in NYC, for example, may let their drivers' licences expire. Would it be an undue burden to require them to get state ID? I think this is an argument that has to be made based on a person's fact and circumstances, no?

BAC said...

Susan, I am from Indiana and I think the rule is a burden. Let's take my sister for example. She doesn't drive, which means she doesn't have a drivers license. She lives in a city that has been nearly bankrupt by the lost of automotive industry jobs, which means it's become pretty much a ghost town. She hasn't been able to find a job for about 6 years now, so she doesn't have money for a cab, and public transportation is terrible.

She did manage to get a photo ID, but it certainly wasn't easy. She's been a registered voter in the state for decades, and never misses an opportunity to vote. When this regulation came into being it was a burden for her.

Now I know what you are going to say. She has the ID, so it must not have been THAT much of a burden. I would counter with the reality that not everone is as committed as my family is to voting. Our parents instilled in us that it was our civic duty to participate. With so few people voting overall, why put any roadblock in the way?


Susan said...

Dear BAC. I am sorry for your sister having such difficulties, over and above voting ID. I don't write as clearly as I would like. I do research for a scientist and am perhaps more sensitive to the need for actual data than some lawyers seem to be. My point was that the case should have used plaintiffs such as this. Then there could have been a judicial assessment of what is, or is not, undue burden.

JudiPhilly said...

Susan: I agree that normally a case needs a plaintiff who has been harmed or is "ripe" for decision, but there are times when the court can rule in advance, to prevent a clear harm from occurring.

Also, there was no evidence of any fraud that resulted from the lack of photo ID (and in many smaller towns and cities, the polling places know the voters personally anyway, since they live in the same neighborhood or area), so the law was "correcting a wrong" that didn't exist -- except for Republicans who want to keep voters out, especially if they're poor and democrat.

Finally, as was noted by BAC and at Listics, The SUPREMES do it again, the court's decision to again intrude in the electoral process means that many people will be prevented from voting, even if they want to try to go through the process, because of administrative delays entailed in obtaining photo ID.

This is my major objection. We should be trying to make it easier to exercise our rights, not harder. Unless the goal is just that. Which it is with the Republican party and this Court.