US Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to Law Requiring Photo ID for Voters

Today’s Bloomberg News reports that the US Supreme Court by a vote of 6-3 in the case of Crawford v. Marion County Election Board rejected a challenge by the Indiana Democratic Party to Indiana’s photo id requirement for voters. The Indiana Voter ID Law (SEA 483), passed in 2005, is viewed as one the nation’s strictest voter-ID law requiring registered voters to present photo ID’s to vote at the polls. According to the opinion, the statute applies to in-person voting at both primary and general elections but not to absentee ballots submitted by mail.

Justice Stevens, writing for the majority, writes at p. 11 of the opinion:

The only kind of voter fraud that SEA 483 addresses is in-person voter impersonation at polling places. The record contains no evidence of any such fraud actually occurring in Indiana at any time in its history…It remains true, however, that flagrant examples of such fraud in other parts of the country have been documented throughout this Nation’s history by respected historians and journalists.

Footnote 11, citing to voter fraud with a local New York flavor, reads:

One infamous example is the New York City elections of 1868. William (Boss) Tweed set about solidifying and consolidating his control of the city. One local tough who worked for Boss Tweed, “Big Tim” Sullivan, insisted that his “repeaters” (individuals paid to vote multiple times) have whiskers:
“When you’ve voted ’em with their whiskers on, you take ’em to a barber and scrape off the chin fringe. Then you vote ’em again with the side lilacs and a mustache. Then to a barber again, off comes the sides and you vote ’em a third time with the mustache. If that ain’t enough and the box can stand a few more ballots, clean off the mustache and vote ’em plain face. That makes every one of ’em good for four votes.”

Recalling the colorful past of Tammany Hall to justify voter ID laws seems dated and out of touch with todays’ voters which Justice Souter’s dissenting opinion addresses in real terms:

Tens of thousands of voting-age residents lack the necessary photo identification. A large proportion of them are likely to be in bad shape economically…The Voter ID Law places hurdles in the way of either getting an ID or of voting provisionally, and they translate into nontrivial economic costs. There is accordingly no reason to doubt that a significant number of state residents will be discouraged or disabled from voting.