Back to the courts on Voter ID laws

The recent move by North Carolina Republicans to approve a “Voter ID” law has spurred demands by opponents of the law for it to be challenged in court; but as you read stories about such legal battles, remember that there is a fairly recent U.S. Supreme Court decision which found Voter ID laws to be constitutional.

It’s only been five years since the Court upheld a Voter ID law in Indiana, with former Justice John Paul Stevens – the leader of the Court’s liberal wing at the time – writing the majority opinion in favor of Indiana’s Voter ID statute.

“In sum, on the basis of the record that has been made in this litigation, we cannot conclude that the statute imposes “excessively burdensome requirements” on any class of voters,” Stevens wrote in the decision, in which he was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts.

“There is no question about the legitimacy or importance of the State’s interest in counting only the votes of eligible voters,” the majority wrote.

The ruling also quoted the findings of a special federal commission on election reforms, that was chaired by former President Jimmy Carter, which endorsed the idea of photo ID for voting as well:

“There is no evidence of extensive fraud in U. S. elections or of multiple voting, but both occur, and it could affect the outcome of a close election. The electoral system cannot inspire public confidence if no safeguards exist to deter or detect fraud or to confirm the identity of voters. Photo identification cards currently are needed to board a plane, enter federal buildings, and cash a check. Voting is equally important.”

Take a few minutes to read the ruling in that Indiana case.

One important part of the Indiana law is that if you don’t have identification, you can still cast a provisional ballot on Election Day; you then have ten days to show up at the local election office to show your ID and make your vote count.

So, as critics charge that the North Carolina law is discriminatory, consider that the Supreme Court ruled on this issue just a few years ago – that may put a more realistic light on the legal efforts by Democrats and the Obama Administration to stop such laws in the future.

We’ll see if this latest round of legal efforts will bear any fruit, or maybe if the issue will make its way back to the U.S. Supreme Court, which at this point would seem unlikely to overturn that 2008 Voter ID decision.