Friday, November 5, 2010

Why Photo ID at the Polls is Bad for Voters - Stories from Indiana

Media reports are saying that incoming legislators want a voter photo identification requirement bill to be top priority next year. It's unfortunate that legislators who coasted to victory on a platform emphasizing economic development would first want to pass a law requiring a government-issued photo ID card at the polls, a barrier that would most likely impact low-income people. Perhaps the votes of those with the greatest need for economic salvation aren't that valuable to next year's leaders.

Originally posted on the national ACLU's Blog of Rights, this story illustrates exactly why photo ID at the polls is a problem. We give you the example of Indiana:

"Voting rights cases extol the right to vote as fundamental and preservative of all rights. Indeed, the right to vote without regard to race, gender, age, or class is protected by numerous constitutional amendments and federal laws. Therefore, Indiana's voter identification law departed from well-established constitutional principles when it required voters to possess a valid, current government-issued photo identification in order to cast a ballot on this past Election Day. After a long partisan battle, Indiana imposed new burdens on minorities, women, students, the elderly and the poor.

"In Crawford v. Marion County, the Supreme Court upheld Indiana's voter ID law, ignoring the plight of a 78-year-old Ft. Wayne woman who attempted to get a photo ID. After three separate trips to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles over several weeks and finally obtaining a certified birth certificate, she was turned away because her birth certificate contained only her maiden name. The law also denied ballots to elderly nuns in South Bend, who were turned away solely because they lacked photo ID. Students from the University of Notre Dame were denied ballots because their student IDs lacked an expiration date and their driver's licenses were out-of-state. They were told they could only vote absentee, while those who possessed Indiana-approved ID were able to go to the polls on Election Day. Instead of treating these voters' ballots as necessary parts of our democracy that preserve all other rights, their denial was characterized as minor collateral damage in the battle to prevent unsubstantiated voter impersonation.

"While the Supreme Court held the state photo ID requirement did not violate federal law, the Indiana Court of Appeals found it violated the Equal Privileges and Immunities Clause of the state constitution because it unjustifiably exempted select groups — absentee voters and voters living in state-licensed care facilities — from having to comply with the law.

"Now the Supreme Court of Indiana has an opportunity to affirm that discriminating against citizens at the polls violates the Indiana Constitution. On Monday, the ACLU's Voting Rights Project filed an amicus brief encouraging the Supreme Court of Indiana to see these injustices and restore equal rights to all of Indiana's voters."

In Wisconsin, your driver's license number helps the state match you to your registration information. But if you aren't licensed to drive in this state, there are other ways you can prove your identity such as using a state ID number or the last four digits of your social security number. You can even bring a voting neighbor to vouch for you.

The idea of a democracy is that every citizen of age gets a vote. Everyone. Not just everyone who can drive. Not just everyone who hasn't lost a birth certificate to a house fire or when fleeing domestic violence. Not just everyone who isn't a student or who isn't elderly or disabled. We should oppose photo ID at the polls in Wisconsin and maintain the integrity of voter access in our state.