Brennan Center Criticizes Supreme Court Decision to Uphold Indiana Voter ID Law
For Immediate Release: April 28, 2008
Bradley, BerlinRosen Public Affairs (646) 452-5637
Webb, Brennan Center for Justice (212) 998-6746
Court Leaves Door Open For Future Challenges to Restrictive ID Laws, Center
Calls on Lawmakers Across Country to Enact Laws That Protect the Right to Vote
New York—Today the Brennan
Center for Justice criticized the U.S.
Supreme Court's decision to uphold Indiana's
voter identification law—the strictest in the country—but noted that the
decision did not give other states a blank check to block eligible
voters. The Brennan
Center called on
lawmakers across the country to reject similar laws and to pass affirmative
legislation protecting the right to vote.
"This year, millions of new voters are surging into
the political process. Lawmakers should be encouraging full participation
by eligible citizens, not erecting new barriers to voting. This is
precisely the wrong message for the Supreme Court to send in this critical
year. We shouldn't give partisans an excuse to find ways to keep people
from voting," said Michael Waldman, the Brennan Center's
The Court's 6–3 opinion in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, widely considered the
most important voting rights case since Bush v. Gore, recognized that ID laws
may have negative impact, even when there is not sufficient evidence to find
them unconstitutional. As six Justices agreed, Indiana's law places a heavier burden on
some eligible citizens, particularly elderly and low-income persons who could
be blocked from voting without the proper documentation. The Brennan Center urged lawmakers to heed the
disenfranchising impacts of ID laws acknowledged in today's decision.
"Today's decision is not the end of the story on
voter ID. Although the Court upheld Indiana's voter ID law, it
did not say that states must or even should pass restrictive ID laws. Now it's up to legislators and courts in
states like Texas, Missouri, and Florida to decide if they are going to follow
Indiana's lead and disenfranchise American citizens, or if they're going to
protect the right to vote for all Americans as we head into a critical national
election," stated Wendy Weiser, Deputy Director of
the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. "In doing so, they should keep in mind that
the Court left open the possibility of future lawsuits against
restrictive ID laws that prevent people from voting.
law, voters must present a government-issued photo ID with an expiration date
that has not elapsed. The law does not
accept Veterans' IDs, Congressional IDs, student IDs, or work IDs.
Many citizens—disproportionately low-income,
minorities, students and seniors—do not have the identification required by Indiana's law.
"In the three years since this case was brought,
reliable studies have shown that 10-12% of eligible voting-age Americans do not
have voter government-issued photo identification, particularly low-income,
minority, senior, and student voters.
Unfortunately, some will ignore these facts, and seek to use this ruling
to manipulate the rules of the game and block these eligible voters from the
ballot box," stated Justin Levitt, counsel at the Brennan Center.
In rejecting the challenge to the law on facial
grounds, the Court today ruled that future challenges to voter laws must be
filed with respect to the application of a specific law—after its
controversial mandates are already applied in an election.
"With this decision, the Court has seriously watered
down protections to the franchise by insisting that the rights of voters can be
protected only after their rights have been abused," stated Renée Paradis,
counsel at the Brennan Center. "State and federal lawmakers must be ready to
reject laws like Indiana's
and ensure that the rights of voters prevails," she stated.
In an amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court last
November, and cited repeatedly by several Justices today, the Brennan Center
demonstrated that each instance of purported voter fraud used to justify Indiana's law was
discredited or could not have been prevented by voter ID.
"Supporters of Indiana's
law seek to stop an imaginary epidemic of voter fraud, even at the expense of
preventing real, eligible citizens from voting," stated Justin Levitt, author
of The Truth About
Voter Fraud. "They did not
provide the Court a single substantiated case of voter impersonation in the
history of the state, yet the Court allowed the state's purported concern with
stopping this fraud to outweigh the very real burden Indiana is placing on its citizens," he
"As Justice Breyer recognized, Indiana's system puts
the cart before the horse, demanding ID of voters before ensuring that voters
actually have them. We have to fix our
ID system to make sure that people who don't have IDs can get them—free of
charge and without hassle or delay. With unprecedented interest in
elections across the country this year, we need to make sure that laws like Indiana's don't dampen
turnout and enthusiasm," he stated.
Only one other state—Georgia—has voter identification requirements similar to Indiana's.
All other states allow voters a wide variety of different means to
confirm their identity before voting.
Though legislatures in other states have proposed legislation similar to
restrictive law, such bills have been met with opposition across the country.
Additionally, there is growing support for affirmative
legislation like Election Day Registration and Universal Registration on the state
and federal levels that will expand the franchise and make voting easier for
"It will be increasingly up to state and federal
legislatures across the country to reject the restrictive policy the Court
approved today and make affirmative measures like universal- and election-day
voter registration integral to the fairness and security of our elections.
There's real enthusiasm at all levels of the country to make it easier for
eligible citizens to vote and have their vote counted. Today's decision only
affirms the need to make that happen," said Weiser.
For more information as well as all legal filings in
this case please click here.
For more inforation about the myths and facts of
voter fraud please log onto www.truthaboutfraud.org.