Supreme Court Upholds Indiana Voter ID Law

4-1 Decision Released Wednesday

The Indiana Supreme Court upheld the state's voter identification law in a 4-1 decision Wednesday, saying the Legislature has the power to require voters to show a photo ID at the polls.

Wednesday's ruling is the latest decision in a string of lawsuits trying to overturn the politically charged 2005 law -- among the strictest in the nation -- but it may not bring an end to the challenges.

Justice Brent Dickson wrote in the majority decision 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 before the state supreme court in March that people have been hurt by the law and that they could testify if the court decides to take up the matter.

The league argued that the law violates the state constitution because it imposed a requirement on some voters, but not all, since absentee voters aren't 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.

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

It cited the U.S. Supreme Court's 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 law's 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.

"It is overwhelmingly supported by voters and taxpayers, despite a very small but very vocal partisan minority," Rokita said. "Protecting the votes of honest people from being diluted by those who have no respect for the franchise is the right thing to do."

Justice Theodore Boehm dissented from Wednesday's 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.

The law has been tangled up in court challenges and political posturing since it was first passed in 2005 by a Republican-controlled Legislature.

Critics of the law said it would keep some poor, older and minority voters from casting ballots. The Indiana Democratic Party challenged the law in federal court, saying it violated the U.S. Constitution. But the nation's highest court upheld the law by a 6-3 vote in April 2008.

The League of Women Voters then challenged the law in state courts. When the state Court of Appeals struck down the law last year, Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels called the 3-0 ruling transparently partisan and "an act of judicial arrogance."

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.

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