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Tuesday, October 24, 2006 

Voter ID Op-Ed

Voter ID laws are in the news a lot lately. The recent Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals oral argument and the even more recent Supreme Court order about the Arizona law have had election law nuts buzzing about these laws. Now, the Wall Street Journal has entered the fray with this commentary.

The op-ed talks about the tendency for courts to invalidate these laws...
Public polls consistently show that an overwhelming majority of Americans--regardless of age, race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status--favor voter ID laws. And nearly half of the nation's states have passed them. Yet a string of recent court decisions has blocked their implementation in some places, thus siding with Democrats and liberal special interest groups who would rather turn a blind eye to voter fraud.
The focus then shifts to the Missouri situation...
The state passed its new voting requirements in May in response to problems at the polls in 2000 and 2004, and the IDs were made available at no charge. The law was to be implemented over a two-year period, and people who lacked proper identification would be permitted to cast a provisional vote next month.

Despite these good faith efforts to ensure legitimate ballot access, however, opponents charge that photo ID requirements are overly burdensome and tantamount to a poll tax. The Missouri Democratic Party, which challenged the law, said that while the ID itself is free, the underlying documents--such as a birth certificate--required to obtain the necessary identification cost money. And state judges were sympathetic to the argument.
The State Supreme Court then struck down the law on a 6-1 decision. The lone dissenter, Justice Stephen Limbaugh Jr. said that the majority failed to take into account the existence of voter fraud...
"Although the majority agrees that there is some evidence of voter fraud at the voter registration stage, they discount that evidence as if it had no connection with fraud at the polling place," wrote Judge Limbaugh. "But why else does voter registration fraud occur if not to vote persons fraudulently registered?"
That is the logical result of someone registering fraudulently. They're going to vote with that fraudulent name. And once that name is on the rolls, it's hard to figure out that it's not supposed to be there without sufficient legal protections.

Are these laws "poll taxes" as some claim? The WSJ says no...
Showing ID is an incidental cost of voting, like having to buy a postage stamp for an absentee ballot, or feed the parking meter when you go to the polling booth. Poll taxes, by contrast, required a person to pay a fee every time he voted and were adopted for racially discriminatory purposes.
There are incidental costs to voting, including everything from the gas you burn to get to the polling place or the time you spend in line (45 minutes for me in the 2004 presidential election). Hell, even the pen you use to fill out your absentee ballot costs money.

The op-ed mentions that the Michigan Supreme Court will be tackling this issue in November. I get the feeling that one or more of these cases will end up before the Supreme Court in the near future to be decided on the merits. Based on their recent order in the Arizona case, I think that they will look closely at the dangers of fraud that Justice Limbaugh's dissent mentioned in the Missouri case. The Court will have to balance the interests involved here.

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