Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments in a case challenging an Indiana law that requires would-be voters in primaries and general elections to show a government-issued photo identification before they can use the ballot box. The law has been upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, where critics failed to prove that the 2005 law had resulted in mass disenfranchisement. We hope the high court will uphold the law, which is a commonsense measure to protect against voter fraud — whether benign or malicious — and ensure accuracy at the polls.

What happens in the Indiana case will have national repercussions, especially in states like Michigan, Georgia and Missouri, where voter ID laws have been challenged with mixed results.

Critics of such voter ID laws say they have a depressing effect on voter turnout. This despite the fact that voter turnout is on the rise (with experts predicting still higher turnout in 2008). One would think that the 10 percent or so of the population that does not have a government ID would use the law as further motivation to obtain one. Such IDs are vital to obtain employment, open a bank account, qualify for government entitlement programs and even purchase certain goods and services. There is little excuse for any American or legal citizen not to obtain either a driver’s license or non-driving ID.

Under the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002, would-be voters must register by proving residency, through documents such as a utility bill, bank statement or government form showing their name and address. Such a low threshold requires a certain degree of responsibility and cognizance that can easily be applied to obtaining a government photo ID.

Indiana’s voter ID law is no harsh regulation. It includes ample exceptions to the ID requirement, including waivers for those who object to being photographed on religious grounds and voters who are too poor to pay for a driver’s license. The state also issues free government identification cards for indigent non-drivers, and residents age 65 and older are eligible to vote via absentee ballot. These measures allow further flexibility and accommodations for voters with special needs.

Press reports indicate the Supreme Court won’t rule on the case until June, after Indiana’s May 6 primary and other states’. The law should remain on the books and be enforced then. We do, however, wish the court could rule before June. 2008 is a presidential election year, and states and localities have much to do in preparation for Election Day.

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