Thursday, January 10, 2008

Like I said

Well, I said "I have little faith and even less hope." Apparently with good cause.

As scheduled, on Wednesday the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of the Indiana voter ID law. That law requires that voters present one of a few specified government-issued photo IDs at the time they vote. If a voter does not have such an ID, they must cast a provisional ballot and then show up in person at the country courthouse within 10 days with certain specified documents to prove their identity. If they don't, their ballot is tossed - which, as I noted on Tuesday, has already happened.

The claimed purpose of the law is to prevent voter fraud through impersonation. Considering that there has never been a single prosecution - not even conviction, prosecution - for voter impersonation in Indiana and that everyone seems to agree that the law will disproportionately impact the (Democratic-favoring) indigent and elderly, it seems clear the real purpose of the law is consciously to suppress voter turnout in a way benefiting GOPpers.

The Court, however but not surprisingly, spent the hour
studiously avoiding almost all mention that it was examining a thoroughly partisan political battle,
according to the coverage by reporter Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog. In fact, Denniston says, the justices - particularly (again not surprisingly) the reactionary wing - put in more effort trying to scuttle the case altogether.
Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the more predictably conservative members, led the charge against the challengers, drawing in his wake Chief Justice John G. Roberts and Justice Alito and (to some extent) Justice [Anthony] Kennedy in questioning whether anyone had “standing” to bring this case. Scalia also took the lead in questioning - even more aggressively - whether the case should have been brought at all to the law as written rather than to its actual application in a specific election setting.
That is, people should have to wait until they actually are denied their vote because of the law. Then and only then should they have standing to sue, thus hilariously suggesting that the very people who can't manage the burden of a photo ID - the poor, the elderly, those with the fewest resources, people who, as even Seventh Circuit Court Judge Richard Posner was forced to admit in his ruling upholding the law, "[n]o doubt ... are low on the economic ladder" - can manage the burden, the stress, the expense, of a federal lawsuit. Adding to the general hilarity, Solicitor General Paul Clement, arguing for the White House, insisted that was exactly right:
Clement suggested that it may be “easier to get someone to help with your lawsuit” than it would be to get some assistance in getting identified to vote.
(Oh, by the way, it turns out that Scalia's two complaints are the same two that the Shrub gang focussed on in supporting the law. I'm still waiting to be surprised by something here.)

Both Denniston and the report in Thursday's Washington Post on the case made special mention of Kennedy's position, labeling him a swing vote while leaving little doubt of his hostility to the challenge to the law. The Post noted this bit:
"You want us to invalidate a statute on the ground that it's a minor inconvenience to a small percentage of voters?" Kennedy asked Washington lawyer Paul M. Smith, who argued the case on behalf of the Indiana Democratic Party, the American Civil Liberties Union, and other Hoosier community groups and individuals.
I expect it's a "minor inconvenience" for a Supreme Court justice, but that hardly makes it one for the estimated 13 percent of Indiana voters (that being, it seems, a "small" number to Kennedy) who don't have photo ID. (The 13% figure comes from the New York Times article I cited on Tuesday; the link is above.)

Denniston, for his part, described Kennedy as
somewhat impatiently suggesting at one point that the challengers would oppose any kind of voter ID requirement other than a simple signature match at the polling place.
That not only seems to improperly expand the argument beyond the issue at hand (even if his supposition is correct, it's irrelevant to the constitutionality of the law at issue), it prompts a valid question: And...? If we actually want to encourage voting, as we supposedly - I choose the word deliberately - do, there should be no unnecessary impedements to doing it. Those qualfied to vote according to requirements like age, residency, and citizenship should be assisted in doing so, not hindered. I voted for years in a state where a signature match was the only ID and it seemed no more subject to voter fraud than any other state (and less than some). After all, impersonating a voter via a signature match requires you to be a skilled forger - and I expect those rare individuals would seek more profitable outlets for their talents.

But that simple logic is lost on Kennedy and specifically rejected by the reactionaries such as Scalia, who embrace "Fraud!" as the new meme designed to increasingly define voting as something to be restricted to the deserving elites, something to be kept away from the hoi polloi, the untrustworthy unwashed masses. Scalia, the ever-faithful echo chamber of wingnut blather,
rejected Smith’s suggestion that voter fraud was only “possible,” insisting instead that it actually was “likely.”
This, it deserves to be pointed out as many times as necessary, despite the fact that Indiana has never prosecuted a single case of voter fraud of any sort this law would cover.

A decision is expected by the end of the current term in June. Right now, I'm looking for the law to be upheld 6-3 with Breyer and Ginsberg in dissent, picking up either Stevens or Souter.

We are so screwed.

Footnote: The Post noted that
Roberts pushed hard on a finding of the lower court that the petitioners had not produced a "single person" who had been denied the chance to vote because of the law. Smith responded that there were examples of voters whose provisional ballots were not counted because they had been unable to meet the state's standards,
as I noted Tuesday. But, assuming the Post reported the exchange accurately (of which there is, I realize, no guarantee), Roberts referred to the "chance" to vote. Anyone without an official photo ID got a provisional ballot - they got, in Roberts' terms, the "chance" to vote.

So there, it seems, you have it: In the eyes of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, what matters is the "chance" to vote. Whether or not your vote actually gets counted, well, that's something else altogether.

No comments:

// I Support The Occupy Movement : banner and script by @jeffcouturer / (v1.2) document.write('
I support the OCCUPY movement
');function occupySwap(whichState){if(whichState==1){document.getElementById('occupyimg').src=""}else{document.getElementById('occupyimg').src=""}} document.write('');