Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Election Law

The Supreme Court has ruled in a dispute over Indiana's restrictive voter identification policy, ruling in a 6-3 decision that presenting a mandatory, government issued identification did not place an undue burden on the right to vote.

The decision was actually split 3-3, with Justice Steven writing an opinion joined Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy, and Justice Scalia writing an opinion joined by Justices Thomas and Alito. I haven't read the case yet, so I won't give any sort of legal opinion, but I'm sort of intrigued about one point. The rational behind a law requiring voters show government issued identification is to prevent voter fraud. Not that it's exactly the same thing, but basically, ensuring transparency in the Democratic process and avoiding the appearance that elections can be bought is perhaps the primary rational behind campaign finance reform laws.

What I find interesting is those who are troubled by Indiana's voter ID restrictions in the name of stopping fraud, but have no problem trampling all over free speech rights in the name of "cleaning up politics." Indiana's law certainly seems like overkill (after all, whats wrong with your college ID?), but I'd have trouble believing it could be unconstitutional. Here's the thing- I'm sure there's a small segment of the population hurt by such a law- but rather than spend millions of dollars on lawyers fees, why not just help poor people get appropriate identification. Whatever the burden may be, there's still a solution within the confines of the law. Not so for those burdened by campaign finance reform. Restrictions on speech can't be so easily undone.


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