I went into the local hardware store yesterday looking for a 1 1/2″ socket. They didn’t have any (Excuse for the new American economy: “they’re held up in customs.”), but I picked up some other doodads, went to the checkout, swiped my bank card through the machine when the cashier asked me for identification.
The step-back moment: I had to show my identification to buy a pair of work gloves at a hardware store. If I want to vote for president of the United States, all I have to do is sign a paper on a line next to the name of the person I claim to be.
When you bring up the idea of requiring proof of identity to vote, it starts a big fight, which the U.S. Supreme Court put an end to — sort of — today when it ruled that an Indiana law requiring ID is constitutional and does not impose an undue burden on voting. A lower court judge had said the opponents of the law had not presented a single Indiana resident who would be unable to vote under the law. The opponents had claimed almost a million people didn’t possess the needed documentation.
Rep. Keith Ellison filed a brief in the Indiana case opposed to the ID requirement.
Justice Paul Stevens’ money quote in his opinion:
But just as other States provide free voter registration cards, the photo identification cards issued by Indiana’s BMV are also free. For most voters who need them, the inconvenience of making a trip to the BMV, gathering the required documents, and posing for a photograph surely does not qualify as a substantial burden on the right to vote, or even represent a significant increase over the usual burdens of voting.
Indiana has a high number of Amish residents. For the Amish, photographs are not acceptable, leading to an assertion that the law there infringes of religious freedom.
In Indiana, as in Minnesota, this appears to be a partisan issue. Republicans voted for the law. Democrats voted against it. Just take a look at the party breakdown on the vote on an amendment earlier this month that would have required more stringent identification in Minnesota.
Republicans will says Democrats just want to engage in voter fraud (the Supreme Court ruling acknowledged there’s no evidence of it in the Indiana case). Democrats will say Republicans are just trying to limit voting to whites and affluent people.
I have a request in to Minnesota’s Secretary of State, Mark Ritchie, to talk about the issue in Minnesota. Stay tuned. (Update: Ritchie talked to MPR’s Elizabeth Stawicki awhile ago saying he hadn’t read the decision and it doesn’t affect Minn., which kind of misses the point of kicking the issue around a bit more.)