Crawford v. Marion County Election Board
, 553 U.S. ___ (2008) is a decision, in a 6-3 vote, by the Supreme Court of the United States
holding that an Indiana
law requiring voters to provide picture identification did not violate the Constitution of the United States
The Court dealt with the claim that voter ID laws demand the strictest of scrutiny by courts, because these laws could potentially disenfranchise voters. All nine Justices disagreed with that argument. Even the dissenters in the case rejected the premise of strict scrutiny
for voter ID laws. Justice Stephen Breyer
, a dissenter, wrote approvingly of voter ID laws in Georgia
More than 20 states have passed voter ID laws. Those opposing the Indiana statute argued that voter ID laws impose an undue burden and disenfranchise some voters. They argued that even though Indiana offers free photo ID to qualified voters, the documents needed to obtain an ID—such as a birth certificate—could require payment or be an inconvenience.
Justice John Paul Stevens, in the leading opinion, stated that these burdens are limited to a small percentage of population and offset by the burden of reducing fraud. Stevens wrote in the majority:
- The relevant burdens here are those imposed on eligible voters who lack photo identification cards that comply with SEA 483. Because Indiana’s cards are free, the inconvenience of going to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, gathering required documents, and posing for a photograph does not qualify as a substantial burden on most voters’ right to vote, or represent a significant increase over the usual burdens of voting. The severity of the somewhat heavier burden that may be placed on a limited number of persons—e.g., elderly persons born out-of-state, who may have difficulty obtaining a birth certificate—is mitigated by the fact that eligible voters without photo identification may cast provisional ballots that will be counted if they execute the required affidavit at the circuit court clerk’s office. Even assuming that the burden may not be justified as to a few voters, that conclusion is by no means sufficient to establish petitioners’ right to the relief they seek.
Justice Antonin Scalia states in his concurring opinion that the Supreme Court should defer to state and local legislators and the Supreme Court should not get involved in local election law cases, which would only encourage more litigation:
- It is for state legislatures to weigh the costs and benefits of possible changes to their election codes, and their judgment must prevail unless it imposes a severe and unjustified overall burden upon the right to vote, or is intended to disadvantage a particular class.
The dissenting opinion, written by Justice David Souter and joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, states "there is no denying the abstract importance, the compelling nature, of combatting voter fraud."
Under the Indiana law, voters who do not have a photo ID may cast a provisional ballot. To have their votes counted, they must visit a designated government office within 10 days and either bring a photo ID or sign a statement saying they can't afford one.
Justice John Paul Stevens
Edward B. Foley, an election law expert at Ohio State University
, said the Stevens opinion might represent an effort to “depoliticize election law cases.” Justice Stevens vote in Crawford
is one of many votes in agreement with the conservative majority during the 2007-2008 Supreme Court term.