Greenhouse Finds Voter ID Requirements "Objectionable"

Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse livened up the soporific Friday evening PBS program Washington Week in Review, the weekend before the Supreme Court began its term by taking sides (the same side as the paper's liberal editorial page) on an upcoming court case from Indiana involving requiring voters to present photo identification at polling places. Conservatives mostly support such laws, which are becoming more popular, saying it will decrease the likelihood of voter fraud; liberals say it discriminates against the poor who don't have picture ID or can't afford it.

The exchange, based on the transcript posted at the program's website:

Host Gwen Ifill: "The Supreme Court agreed this week to reenter that debate. At issue are laws in more than 20 states that require voters to present government issued ID at polling places, whether it's unconstitutional. How did this case bubble up to the court? Linda?"

New York Times Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse: "Well, like a lot of cases this comes from the state of Indiana. Indiana passed a law. They were kind of the leading edge for a lot of states who are doing it - passed a law that said instead of just signing the poll book like most of us have done whenever we go to vote, you have to present current government issued ID that is issued."

Gwen Ifill: "What is objectionable about that? It doesn't seem unreasonable on its face."

Greenhouse: "Well, what's objectionable about it is what kinds of IDs are people likely to have? If it's state issued, it's a driver's license - not everybody has one. If it's federally issued, it's a passport. There's not a photo on your Social Security card. There's not a photo. So the disparate impact of a law like this falls on the elderly, the poor, people with disabilities, and so on. And the Indiana law is a tough one. If you show up without the requisite ID you can cast a provisional ballot which will only be counted if within 10 days you get yourself to a county courthouse, a county clerk, and you either get the ID or you get a substitute ID from the Motor Vehicle's Office, for which you have to show ID to show you're entitled to that. So the federal judge, Judge Posner, who wrote the majority opinion upholding this law for the

Appeals Court
said, yes, it will have a disparate impact and it's going to hurt Democrats because poor people are more likely to be Democratic voters. It will hurt them, but it won't hurt them much. The individual vote isn't that important and the state interest in preventing voter fraud is substantial enough that it's worth the price. That was his way of tackling it."

When challenging the law's "disparate impact" on the poor, Greenhouse didn't mention that the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles will issue a free picture ID to anyone who doesn't have one.