In a 6-3 decision released this morning the Supreme Court upheld an Indiana law that requires voters to produce a photo id in order to cast a ballot. Its not an easy decision to digest. Justice Stevens authored the lead opinion, joined by CJ Roberts and Justice Kennedy. Justices Thomas and Alito joined Scalia's concurrence. Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer were in dissent.
Couple points to note, however. Civil rights groups had lined up with Democrats to oppose the Republican inspired measure on the ground that the burdens imposed will discourage poor, elderly and minority voters from participating in the political process - all without delivering any counterbalancing benefits to the state. One of the primary motivations behind the law is the asserted need to deter in-person voter misidentification. The problem is, as pointed out by Justice Souter, not a single instance of this type of voter fraud has been recorded in the history of Indiana elections. Ever. But real problems, such as absentee-voter fraud, duplicate registrations, and the like, go unremedied.
The decision leaves room for future "as applied" challenges - an increasingly favorite strategy for disposing of controversial cases - but those challenges are difficult to win, and certainly don't leave much promise for the tens of thousands of Indiana voters who are now disenfranchised, just in time for the state's May 6 primary.
-Kathleen A. Bergin