Crawford v. Marion County Election Board
, 553 U.S. 181 (2008) was a United States Supreme Court case holding that an Indiana
Indiana is a US state, admitted to the United States as the 19th on December 11, 1816. It is located in the Midwestern United States and Great Lakes Region. With 6,483,802 residents, the state is ranked 15th in population and 16th in population density. Indiana is ranked 38th in land area and is...
law requiring voters to provide photo IDs did not violate the Constitution of the United States.
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.
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
The Democratic Party is one of two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Republican Party. The party's socially liberal and progressive platform is largely considered center-left in the U.S. political spectrum. The party has the lengthiest record of continuous...
In a 6-3 decision, the 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
John Paul Stevens served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from December 19, 1975 until his retirement on June 29, 2010. At the time of his retirement, he was the oldest member of the Court and the third-longest serving justice in the Court's history...
, 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:
Justice Antonin Scalia
- "The relevant burdens here are those imposed on eligible voters who lack photo identification cards that comply with SEA 483. 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."
Antonin Gregory Scalia is an American jurist who serves as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. As the longest-serving justice on the Court, Scalia is the Senior Associate Justice...
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."
Justice David Souter
David Hackett Souter is a former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He served from 1990 until his retirement on June 29, 2009. Appointed by President George H. W. Bush to fill the seat vacated by William J...
, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Ruth Joan Bader Ginsburg is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Ginsburg was appointed by President Bill Clinton and took the oath of office on August 10, 1993. She is the second female justice and the first Jewish female justice.She is generally viewed as belonging to...
, 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
Stephen Gerald Breyer is an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1994, and known for his pragmatic approach to constitutional law, Breyer is generally associated with the more liberal side of the Court....
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
The Republican Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Democratic Party. Founded by anti-slavery expansion activists in 1854, it is often called the GOP . The party's platform generally reflects American conservatism in the U.S...
's partisan interest in reducing low-income voter turnout likely motivated 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."