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League of Women Voters of Indiana v. Rokita

Indiana's Top Court Refuses to Strike Down Restrictive Voter ID Law

As part of its continuing effort to ensure that older voters can participate fully in the political process, AARP filed a "friend of the court" brief in a case that challenged voter photo-ID requirements enacted by the State of Indiana.

The Supreme Court of Indiana — the state's top court — ruled that the case was properly dismissed, rejecting claims that the law violated the state constitution.

Background

Previously, a bitterly divided U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Indiana law that requires voters to show government-issued photo IDs. AARP had urged the court to strike down Indiana's uniquely onerous requirements as an undue burden on the fundamental right to vote, under the U.S. Constitution, but the court disagreed.

Emphasizing states' compelling interest in the integrity of the voting process, both in actually verifying that people presenting themselves to vote are eligible to do so, and also in safeguarding voter confidence in the process — even in the absence of any concrete evidence of supposed vote fraud in the form of voter impersonation, the court upheld the law generally in its 2008 ruling, Crawford v. Marion County Board of Elections.

The Crawford court acknowledged that Indiana's law might impose a "special burden" on older, indigent and disabled people (as well as those with religious objections to being photographed). But nevertheless, the court dismissed such concerns as minimal in their overall effect on the voting populace. Although the law might be difficult to satisfy for "a few voters," the court ruled, the burden on those few did not justify invalidating the photo requirement for the vast majority of voters for whom compliance would be easier.

But a powerful dissenting opinion pointed out that Indiana's law "threatens to impose nontrivial burdens on the voting rights of tens of thousands of the state's citizens," particularly imposing "unreasonable and irrelevant burdens" on voters who are poor and older, and that it was enacted despite little or no evidence of actual in-person voter fraud — the only form of voting fraud a photo ID can prevent.

While upholding the law on its face, the court left the door open for future challenges to photo ID laws based on concrete evidence that eligible, registered voters have been unfairly burdened and prevented from voting by the rules requiring them to obtain photo ID (also known as an "as applied" challenge to the law).

While the Crawford decision put to rest the hopes that federal law might keep "photo ID" from becoming the rallying cry of a new generation of legislators committed to tightening voting requirements, the Court also left open the possibility of challenges to photo ID laws based on state law. And just a few months after the Crawford decision, a group of Indiana voters filed a new lawsuit — in state court — to overturn the Indiana photo ID law and to put to the test the possibilities left open by the U.S. Supreme Court.


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Find the most recent cases in which AFL has advocated in courts nationwide for the rights of older persons, and filed AARP’s amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) briefs that help courts decide precedent-setting cases.

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