Voter photo ID debated before high court

Jan. 9, 2008 at 2:45 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court heard argument Wednesday on whether a law requiring a photo ID for voting is an unconstitutional burden on the poor.

Democrats are challenging an Indiana law requiring a photo ID, such as a driver's license or passport, to vote. Indiana voters showing up at the polls without a photo ID are only allowed to cast provisional ballots and then must show officials a photo ID later in order for the ballot to be counted.

The photo ID requirement is a thinly disguised effort to discourage voting among the poor, the elderly and minorities, those least likely to have the IDs, Democrats argue.

Republicans argue that photo IDs are essential to cut down on voter fraud by illegal aliens and others.

Wednesday, liberal Justice John Paul Stevens asked U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement -- the Bush administration is helping defend the law -- whether it was "fair to infer" that the restriction was designed to hurt the Democratic Party.

Clement said he didn't know but Democrats had done well in the ensuing election, reported.

The court's four conservatives, and to some extent moderate Justice Anthony Kennedy, downplayed the effect of the law on voting. And conservatives repeatedly pointed out that no one had actually been prevented from voting so far, hinting that a challenge would have to wait until someone is denied voting rights.

A ruling in the case is expected before the summer and would affect not only Indiana but several states which have less restrictively requirements, such as Georgia, Michigan and Florida.

(Crawford vs. Marion County Election Board No. 07-21; and Indiana Democratic Party vs. Rokita No. 07-25)

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