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League of Women Voters of Indiana v. Rokita

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

The Ruling

The Supreme Court of Indiana did not agree. Characterizing much of the objectionable requirements as "regulatory" in nature, the court ruled that the complained-of requirements might be challenged on grounds of uniformity and reasonableness, but were not unconstitutional as impermissible additional "substantive" qualifications. The court then turned to the question of whether in fact the Photo ID Law provisions violated principles of uniformity and reasonableness. The court found they were justified on the grounds of protecting the integrity and reliability of the electoral process. Finally, the court rejected the argument that the law's requirements unconstitutionally treated different classes of people differently. The court found there was no way to require identification from absentee voters and ruled that "legislation is not constitutionally deficient for failing to impose an unenforceable, useless, requirement." As for residents of licensed care facilities, the court acknowledged that the law burdened these voters, but characterized the number of these citizens as "relatively extremely small" and therefore any disparity in their treatment was "minor and insubstantial" — and thus permitted by the state constitution.

The majority noted that Missouri's top court came to a very different conclusion when assessing its voter ID law, in the case of Weinschenk v. State, in which AARP also participated as a "friend of the court." But the court distinguished the laws challenged in Missouri and Indiana both in terms of the substance of their technical requirements and in regard to the protections afforded the two states' constitutions.

Indiana Justice Boehm filed a lengthy and thoughtful dissent in Rokita, noting that in contrast to the majority, he would have allowed the plaintiffs to try to prove their claims. He was sufficiently concerned about the law's apparent effect of blocking access to the polls, the historical problem of a majority of the electorate being able to force unequal treatment on a minority (a tension in politics that the judicial branch is supposed to help alleviate), and the law's inability to address the very subject it was supposed to address — voter fraud — given that the evidence showed that the largest fraud problem in Indiana was with absentee ballots.

Finally, Justice Boehm took issue with the majority's dismissal of the small number of voters in residential facilities who the majority noted would be burdened. "A small number of voters can determine the outcome of an election, as the national experience with the 2000 Florida presidential election demonstrated so dramatically," he wrote. More emphatically, he noted that "a statute that wrongly denies any group of citizens the right to vote harms us all, and therefore may properly be challenged as invalid in its entirety, not merely to those directly affected."

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