Supreme Court upholds voter identification law - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Supreme Court upholds voter identification law

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Posted: Monday, April 28, 2008 11:03 pm | Updated: 11:08 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling Monday upholding voter ID requirements in Indiana does not necessarily mean a similar Arizona law is legal, an attorney for challengers said.

Nina Perales, regional counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said there are several key differences in the Arizona law enacted by voters in 2004 and the Indiana statute that was found constitutional. These range from fees charged for getting the necessary identification card to procedures for those who show up at the polls without ID.

And Perales said the Arizona lawsuit contains something not in the Indiana case and not considered by the nation's high court: a contention that the mandate unfairly affects minorities.

But Andrea Esquer, spokeswoman for the state attorney general's office, said the wording of the decision by Justice John Paul Stevens gives her agency hope that the Arizona law, despite its differences, will also withstand challenges. She noted the ruling "acknowledges the important interest of states in ensuring that only eligible voters are permitted to vote and the importance of states' ability to promote public confidence in the integrity of elections."

No one, however, was claiming that Monday's ruling ends the Arizona case, with Esquer saying only that it "should help support our efforts to defend Arizona's ID law at the polls."

Indiana, like Arizona, requires those who show up at the polls to present photo identification.

Stevens, writing for the divided court, said there is nothing wrong with "evenhanded restrictions that protect the integrity and reliability of the electoral process itself." And requiring would-be voters to produce photo identification fits that test.

He also said it was irrelevant that there was no evidence of voter fraud at any time in Indiana history. He said the fact there have been "flagrant examples" of such fraud elsewhere in the country at one time or another is enough.

There are some differences between the Indiana law and the one in Arizona.

For example, Indiana residents who do not have a driver's license - one form of acceptable ID - can get a free photo ID card from the state. In Arizona, there is a $12 fee for an identification card issued by the Motor Vehicle Division.

But even in Indiana, there are people for whom getting an identification card would present a financial burden. Stevens said these include the elderly and others who may have economic or other problems in getting the required birth certificate or other documentation to get the card in the first place.

Even in that case, though, individuals can still cast a "provisional" ballot on election day that will be counted if the person goes to the circuit court clerk's office within 10 days to sign an affidavit.

"It is unlikely such a requirement would pose a constitutional problem unless it is wholly unjustified," Stevens wrote. And he said if assuming that burden to some voters is unjustified, that does not mean the ID requirements are voided.

That is the other key difference in the laws: In Arizona, those who cast provisional ballots on election day must actually bring their ID to the county clerk's office several days later to have their vote count.

That also goes to the issue of the breadth of the burden.

In the Indiana case, the justices said there was no evidence how many people were affected by the ID requirements. Perales said there is evidence that during the last three votes - the 2006 primary and general election and this year's presidential preference election - a total of about 3,000 people ended up not being able to vote because of the law.

Potentially the biggest difference, said Perales, is that the challenge to the Indiana law was based solely on constitutional claims of equal protection.

That element exists in the Arizona lawsuit, now scheduled for trial on July 27. But Perales said there is also a claim that the Arizona law separately violates the federal Voting Rights Act - specifically, a provision that bars states from enacting changes in law that dilute minority voting strength.

She said there is evidence that minorities have a harder time coming up with the documents such as birth certificates to prove who they are.

Another difference between Arizona and Indiana law could work to the state's favor: Indiana requires a photo ID, but in Arizona, voters without photo ID can use two other forms of documentation without photographs to prove identity.

Challengers to Arizona's law are already at a disadvantage, and not just because of Monday's ruling.

U.S. District Judge Roslyn Silver has already ruled in favor of the state on several of the issues.

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