Crawford v. Marion County Election Board

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Crawford v. Marion County Election Board
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued January 9, 2008
Decided April 28, 2008
Full case name William Crawford v. Marion County Election Board
Docket nos. 07-21
Citations 553 U.S. 181 (more)
553 U.S. 181, 128 S. Ct. 1610, 170 L. Ed. 2d 574, 2008 WL 1848103, 2008 U.S. LEXIS 3846
Prior history On Writs of Certiorari to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.
Holding
A statute requiring voters to show a picture ID is constitutional.
Court membership
Case opinions
Plurality Stevens, joined by Roberts, Kennedy
Concurrence Scalia, joined by Thomas, Alito
Dissent Souter, joined by Ginsburg
Dissent Breyer

Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, 553 U.S. 181 (2008), is a United States Supreme Court case holding that an Indiana law requiring voters to provide photo IDs did not violate the Constitution of the United States.

Background[edit]

A 2005 Indiana law required all voters casting a ballot in person to present a United States or Indiana photo ID. 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 bring a photo ID or sign a statement saying they cannot afford one.[1]

At trial, the plaintiffs were unable to produce any witnesses who claimed they were not able to meet the law's requirements. The defendants were likewise unable to present any evidence that the corruption purportedly motivating the law existed.

The District Court and 7th Circuit Court of Appeals both upheld the law. The circuit court was deeply divided, with the dissent characterizing the law as a thinly-veiled attempt to disenfranchise low-income Democratic Party voters.

The lead planitiff was William Crawford, who was a Democrat member of the Indiana House of Representatives from Indianapolis from 1972-2012. The defendant was the election board of Marion County, Indiana. Indianapolis is the county seat of Marion County.

Summary[edit]

In a 6-3 decision in 2008, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the photo ID requirement, finding it closely related to Indiana's legitimate state interest in preventing voter fraud, modernizing elections, and safeguarding voter confidence.

Justice John Paul Stevens, in the leading opinion, stated that the burdens placed on voters are limited to a small percentage of the population and were offset by the state's interest in 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.[2] 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 that the Supreme Court should not get involved in local election law cases, which would do nothing but 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."

Dissents[edit]

Justice David Souter, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, filed a dissenting opinion, which would have declared the voter ID laws unconstitutional. Souter argued that Indiana had the burden of producing actual evidence of the existence of fraud, as opposed to relying on abstract harms, before imposing "an unreasonable and irrelevant burden on voters who are poor and old."

Justice Stephen Breyer also filed a dissenting opinion arguing that Indiana's law was unconstitutional. While he spoke approvingly of some voter ID laws, he found that Indiana's procedures for acquiring an ID were too burdensome and costly for some low income or elderly voters.

The legislation's partisan motivations and implications fueled much of the controversy. While the majority conceded that Republican Party's partisan interest in reducing low-income voter turnout likely played a role in motivating the law's passage, it found that the law's valid neutral justifications "should not be disregarded simply because partisan interests may have provided one motivation for the votes of individual legislators."

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Stohr, Greg."Voter-ID Law Draws Political Clash at Supreme Court", Bloomberg, January 8, 2008
  2. ^ SEA 483 is the Indiana election law at issue in Crawford.

External links[edit]