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    Supremely Wrong

    Unfortunately, democracy took a blow today when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Indiana’s strictest-in-the-nation voter ID law. See Rock the Vote’s statement below:

    Supreme Court Photo ID Ruling a Blow to American Democracy

    Voting Rights of Young Adults, Low-Income, Minority Voters, Elderly at Risk

    April 28, 2008 – Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Indiana’s strict photo identification requirement for voters does not violate the constitutional right to vote. The ruling, upholding a decision by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, immediately impacts only Indiana voters but could have far-reaching effects should other states move forward to enact similar laws.

    Rock the Vote condemns today’s ruling, which will disenfranchise young, low-income, minority and elderly voters in Indiana, and presents additional barriers to the fundamental right to vote.

    “In a year when young adults are turning out to vote in record numbers, it’s shameful to see the Court issue a ruling that can only dampen this surge in political participation,” said Heather Smith, Executive Director of Rock the Vote. “Thankfully, this ruling only directly impacts one state: Indiana,” continued Smith. “We hope that other states will avoid playing politics with the right to vote and recognize that laws like the one in Indiana do significant harm to our democracy.”

    In Rock the Vote’s most recent poll of 18-29 year olds, 19 percent reported that they did not have a government-issued photo ID with their current address, indicating that as many as one in five young adults could be disenfranchised by a restrictive law such as the one in Indiana or variations on ID laws in other states. Young adults, who move frequently and/or are likely to be in college, tend to be among those most adversely affected by laws requiring state-issued photo identification. Other demographics affected adversely by this law include senior citizens, low-income adults, and minority voters.

    The Supreme Court’s decision, available at http://www.supremecourtus.gov, reveals troubling thinking behind this ruling:

    1) The Court admits in its ruling that the reasoning behind imposing this strict law – the desire to prevent voter fraud – was inapplicable in Indiana. In its ruling, the Court stated “the record contains no evidence that the fraud…in-person voter impersonation at polling places – has actually occurred in Indiana…” (page 2, emphasis added)

    2) The Court also downgrades the constitutional right to vote. Justice Scalia, joined by Justices Thomas and Alito, stated “petitioners’ premise that the voter-identification law might have imposed a special burden on some voters is irrelevant.” (page 3, emphasis added)

    3) Finally, the Court states that the burden of obtaining this identification is not “a significant increase over the usual burdens of voting” (page 3), reiterating the sentiment behind the Seventh Circuit’s shocking statement that voters who do not obtain the required identification are choosing to “disenfranchise themselves” rather than go to “the expense of obtaining a photo ID.”

    Rock the Vote condemns today’s ruling and encourages other states not to follow Indiana’s lead, but to instead support the participation of young voters in 2008 and beyond by ensuring citizens’ rights to vote are priority number one in our electoral system.

    Rock the Vote signed onto a brief amicus curiae in support of the petitioners in this case, along with other youth groups including the Student Association for Voter Empowerment and the National Black Law Students Association. Throughout 2008, Rock the Vote will be providing information on voter registration and voting to young Americans as part of our work to register two million 18-29 year olds to vote and increase young voter turnout for the third election in a row. In addition, we will be keeping a close eye on voting rights to ensure no eligible American is denied the right to vote.

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    Email the author at: blog(at)rockthevote.com

    2 Responses to “Supremely Wrong”

    1. mrvazjr says:

      I appreciate efforts that posts like this make to educate voters on the Photo ID issue, but my opinion on the matter is still without form. If voter fraud poses a potential problem, be it in Indiana or elsewhere in the nation why not take proactive steps to safeguard the voting process. Should we only invest our wisdom in hindsight scenarios? While I’m still gathering thoughts on the matter of a voter Photo ID law, I think I’d benefit from some conversation around the validity of the law’s foresight. Is the requirement for voters to produce a Photo ID a bad idea? Does it really prevent, or even deter young adults, low-income individuals, minorities and/or the elderly? How?

      What I do feel is sad that the supreme court’s ruling could actually dampen the surge in the political participation of the nation’s youth. I wonder how many copies of Grand Theft Auto IV wouldn’t have been purchase if stores were required to card purchasers. How many iPhones would have collected dust on shelves last year if Apple stores required Photo IDs?

      Point is our nation’s youth is nothing if not resilient and resourceful in the face of a challenge that stands between what they have and what they want. Why should we predict it a lost cause to influence them to have that same vigor about their political voice?

      As a minority voter who hails from a low-income family I have managed to form at least this opinion; Rock the Vote should certainly acknowledge the challenge strict photo ID laws present its impactful followers and take part in righting a possible wrong, but with a tone and character consistent with its long standing, eighteen-year mission, mobilize young people to effect positive change–social and political–in their lives and communities. A mantra to which I’d add “against all odds.” It is not merely the “ease” of voting that should attract America’s youth, but the thrill and the rush of adding one more set of hands to the push toward real change.

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