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Indiana Supreme Court upholds state's voter ID law

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Associated Press Writers

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) The Indiana Supreme Court upheld the states politically charged 2005 voter identification law Wednesday, saying the Legislature has the power to require voters to show a photo ID at the polls.

The ruling is the latest decision in a string of lawsuits trying to overturn the law among the strictest in the nation and opponents of the ID requirement said they expected more legal challenges. Critics have said the law would keep some poor, older and minority voters from casting ballots.

Justice Brent Dickson wrote in the 4-1 decision Wednesday that no actual voters harmed by the law were named in the suit.

No individual voter has alleged that the voter ID law has prevented him or her from voting or inhibited his or her ability to vote in any way, the decision states. Our decision today does not prevent any such voter from challenging the law in the future.

Attorneys for the League of Women Voters, which challenged the law, said in oral arguments in March that the law has hurt people who could testify if the court decides to take up the matter.

The league argued the law violates the state constitution because it imposed a requirement on some voters, but not all, since absentee voters arent required to prove their identity. The state appeals court agreed in 2009 and threw out the law, but the ID requirements remained in place as the Supreme Court took up the case.

Karen Celestino-Horseman, an attorney for the league, said the odds of a fresh challenge could increase when stringent new drivers license ID requirements take effect in January, affecting people who arent necessarily poor.

Women in particular are going to be impacted, she said, by requirements that they produce documents authenticating every name change in cases of marriage and divorce.

The Indiana Supreme Court said Wednesday that the photo ID requirement was not a substantive voter qualification.

It cited the U.S. Supreme Courts 2008 ruling in a federal court challenge by the state Democratic Party to the Indiana law that said a photo ID is required to enter federal buildings and board planes and voting was equally important.

The voter ID laws requirement that an in-person voter present a government-issued photo identification card containing an expiration date is merely regulatory in nature, Dickson wrote.

Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita, a Republican, applauded the decision, saying the law is overwhelmingly supported by voters despite a very small but vocal partisan minority.

Hoosier commonsense prevails again, Rokita said.

Justice Theodore Boehm dissented from Wednesdays ruling, saying that voting changes such as the ID law should require a state constitutional amendment.

Any limitation on the right to vote surely strikes at one of the core values embodied in the Indiana Constitution, Boehm wrote.

He noted that even if small numbers of voters are affected, the outcome of an election could be changed, citing the 2000 presidential recount in Florida as an example.

A statute that wrongly denies any group of citizens the right to vote harms us all, and therefore may properly be challenged as invalid in its entirety, not merely as to those directly affected, he said.

The law has been tangled up in court challenges and political posturing since it was first passed in 2005 by a Republican-controlled Legislature. And Democratic Indiana House Speaker Patrick Bauer didnt anticipate that to end, saying he also expected Wednesdays ruling to be challenged.

But, You have to find the money, he said. Justice is not cheap.

Indianapolis League of Women Voters President Erin Kelley said the group would remain vigilant and monitor elections to determine whether anyone was turned away from the polls.

If we need to step in again, the league will do that, she said.



Posted 7/1/2010




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