Note: Active links and PDFS are saved to Drop Box LWVIN and Indiana Voter ID Law Litigation
The League of Women Voters of Indiana in accordance with the LWVUS Citizens Right to Vote position opposes the Indiana Voter (Photo) ID Law (P.L. 109-2005 ) which was approved by the Indiana State Legislature in 2005.
Soon after the Voter ID Law was enacted in Indiana , the ACLU of Indiana and the Democratic Party of Marion County filed a lawsuit in the federal courts to declare this law unconstitutional based on the national constitution. Given the League’s position, LWVIN and LWV of Indianapolis filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs. As it went through the federal court system, the plaintiffs appealed the losses to the highest level and finally it was accepted by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). LWVIN and LWV of Indianapolis supported this case with an amicus brief. See the press release for this action of November 14, 2007. SCOTUS heard the oral arguments of the case on January 9, 2008. To read more about the case and the briefs supporting the plaintiffs go to the Brennan Center for Justice at the NY School of Law.
You can also find the amicus brief that LWVIN, LWV of Indianapolis and LWVUS submitted to SCOTUS in support of the appeal. The Indiana lawyers, LWVUS lawyers and lawyers from the Brennan Center worked tirelessly to prepare a well crafted and powerful statement which was obviously read by the Justices and taken into consideration by many. This was evident by the statements and questions of the Justices during the oral arguments. The content of our brief also surfaced in their written opinions once the decision was rendered. The decision was 6-3 against the plaintiffs so the Indiana Voter ID Law remains in effect. There were three opinions submitted from the justices who left the door open for states to reconsider their own voter id laws and language to encourage additional lawsuits.
Also read President of LWVUS Mary Wilson’s press release on the Supreme Court’s decision on the Indiana Voter ID Law.
On June 20, 2008 LWVIN and LWV of Indianapolis filed a complaint in the Marion Superior Court against the Marion County Election Board stating that the Indiana Voter ID Law is unconstitutional based on the three eligibility requirements to vote in Indiana as listed in the Indiana Constitution, Article 2, Section 2 (a) which states “A citizen of the United States who is at least eighteen (18) years of age and who has been a resident of a precinct thirty (30) days immediately preceding an election may vote in that precinct at the election.”
An amended complaint was filed in early July to add a second count pointing out the disparity in the law between voters. Voters who vote in-person must present an acceptable ID but those voting absentee by mail are not required to do so.Read the complete complaint.
Following the addition of the amended complaint in July, the Defendant, Secretary of State Rokita filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that the defendant named was not the appropriate defendant. The filing claimed that Secretary Rokita did not have the authority to resolve any issue related to the Indiana Voter ID Law. Hearings were held on August 27 th and November 24 th in the Marion County Superior Court with Judge S.K. Reid. On December 17 th Judge Reid granted the defendants motion to dismiss. You can read Judge Reid’s order to grant the dismissal here.
On January 15, 2009, LWVIN and LWV of Indianapolis filed an appeal to the decision of the Indiana Trial Courts decision to dismiss the Indiana Voter ID lawsuit. All the documents from both sides were filed by mid April. The Appeals Court decides how soon the appeal will be heard. The LWV lawyers are asking for an expedited hearing. It is important to keep in mind that this lawsuit was not dismissed on the merits of the case but only on who was being sued, Secretary of State Rokita, who in fact oversees the Election Division of the State of Indiana. We have yet to have a hearing on the merits of the case. Click on the link to read the Notice of Appeal and the Appellate Brief.
On May 1, 2009, the legal reciprocal communication between the LWV and the SOS Office resulted in the LWV final brief being submitted to the Indiana Court of Appeals. There are several areas to be addressed by the Appeals Court which include:
Is the SOS office the rightful defendant in this case?
Does the Voter ID violate the Indiana constitution on two counts? One being that the law is a regulation to change the qualification for voting in Indiana which the legislature does no have the authority to do and the second being whether or not the law is uniform and impartial for all voters.
On May 22, 2009, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) held a public hearing regarding a proposal to the Indiana Administrative Code related to renewing a driver’s license in Indiana. During the second week of July they announced to expect changes. These changes, effective January 1, 2010, will require a first-time applicant as well as a renewal of a driver’s license or Indiana ID submit original or certified documents that prove the voter’s “identity, lawful status in the U.S., residence address, and Social Security Number (SSN) or the document that shows the individual is not eligible for a SSN and that the applicant is an Indiana Resident.” As a result, on July 17, 2009, the LWVIN and LWV of Indianapolis filed a Statement of Additional Authorities to the Indiana Court of Appeals since these new regulations place more burden on voters by the Law being challenged and are now inextricably connected to the policy preferences of unelected administrators at the BMV, who can require that additional documents be produced in order to secure a document — a license or ID — that is now needed to vote and have that vote counted.
What is interesting is that on July 22, 2009, the BMV recalled these regulations which was not publicly announced and was not known to the League until receiving Secretary Rokita’s response to the Statement of Additional Authorities. Then on August 12, 2009, Governor Daniels announced that the regulations do still apply to first time applicants of driver’s licenses or ID cards. In addition, they would apply to anyone who would request a `federally compliant’ ID referring to the federal Real ID Act to take effect in 2016. It seems apparent that the both the BMV and Governor Daniels intend to make these new regulations effective for January 1, 2010. On August 21, 2009, the League once again filed a Second Statement of Additional Authorities to the Court of Appeals since these regulations are directly related to the lawsuit in progress. The purpose of these Additional Authorities is to call the Court of Appeals’ attention to these new regulations by the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles that will further increase the complexities and burdens on Hoosiers to obtain a license and photo ID, and which will thus also make it even more difficult to obtain the documents necessary to vote under the Photo ID Law. The more requirements the BMV adds for getting licenses and IDs, the more it strengthens our position that the ID requirement is a voting “qualification” under the Indiana Constitution as opposed to a mere procedural requirement.
On September 17, 2009, the Indiana Court of Appeals (COA) ruled that the Indiana Voter ID Law is unconstitutional. The three appellate judges agreed that “the Voter I.D. law violates Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 23, and must be declared void because it regulates voters in a manner that is not uniform and impartial.”
The COA addressed several issues, the first being whether or not Secretary Todd Rokita was the proper defendant in the case. The court ruled that he was the proper defendant since he is the chief election official of the state and as such, performs all ministerial duties related to the administration of elections; advises and instructs local election officials; and is an interpretive resources on general election law provisions.
A second issue before the court was whether or not the Indiana Voter I.D. law was an added qualification to vote which Article 2, Section 2, of the Indiana Constitution forbids the legislature from doing or whether the law is procedural meaning it is just a way to manage the elections which the legislature has an obligation to do. COA ruled that the Voter I.D. law is procedural.
Under Article 1, Section 23, of the Indiana Constitution, also known as the Equal Privileges and Immunities Clause, the COA ruled that the law is unconstitutional. The League argued that as a result of the policy that in-person voters needed to show ID and absentee voters did not need to show ID and since residents of a state licensed facility which happened to be a polling place did not need to show ID but those residing in a state licensed facility which was not a polling place did need to show ID, voters were not being treated in a uniform and impartial manner.
The COA did not agree that the photo and the expiration date requirements on the voter I.D. also demonstrated that voters were not being treated uniformly or impartially.
You can read the complete opinion written by Judge Riley. The Court of Appeals opinion is not certified for 30 days. During this time the either party may file a petition to transfer (send it to the Indiana Supreme Court) thus preventing the opinion from being certified until the Supreme Court either denies the petition or grants the petition and issues a final ruling.
As expected, the defendants filed a petition to transfer to the Indiana Supreme Court and and LWVIN did as well. Here is the LWVIN petition to transfer. On January 25, 2010 the Court issued the order to transfer and later scheduled the oral argument for March 4, 2010. Many groups supported the League’s case by submitting amicii briefs. These briefs as well as other resources related to this case, League v Rokita, can be located at the Brennan Center for Justice website. On the day of the hearing, the court room was filled with students, lawyers, and the press and League members from across the state. The League argued that the photo ID is a new qualification to vote which the state legislature does not have the authority to make according to the Indiana Constitution; the photo ID is not equally applied to all voters specifically to absentee voters and to senior citizens who do not live in a state operated facility which happens to be used as a polling place. The defendants did not agree with these claims and insisted that the photo ID was necessary to prevent voter fraud.
When the opinion cam down from the court, four of the five justices agreed with the defendants and ruled against the plaintiffs, League of Women Voters of Indiana and Indianapolis. The Indiana Voter ID law is still in effect as per the Indiana Supreme Court. Below are a few conclusions in the opinion of the majority court including Justices Shepard, Sullivan and Rucker and Dickson (author of opinion).
“We conclude that it is clear on the face of the complaint that the plaintiffs, as a matter of law, are not entitled to the relief sought. It is within power of the legislature to require voters to identify themselves at the polls using a photo ID.”
“…the plaintiffs seek a declaration that it is unconstitutional to require voters to identify themselves at the polls using a photo ID. This is relief to which the plaintiffs are not entitled. But affirming the trial court, we do so without prejudice to future particularized as-applied claims.”
“We affirm the judgment of the trial court granting the appellee’s motion to dismiss and rejecting the plaintiff’s claims that the Indiana Voter ID Law contravenes Article 2, Section 2 or Article 1, Section 23 of the Indiana Constitution.”
It is important to point out that the door is still open for future individual claims that the photo ID law in fact prevented individual citizens from exercising their constitutional right to vote. The dissenting opinion from Justice Boehm in his conclusion stated, “I would remand this case to permit the plaintiffs to attempt to prove their case.” recognizing that the League’s claims have merit and deserve more time in court. Additional comments, below from Justice Boehm’s minority opinion demonstrate why additional litigation in this area is worthy.
“I think both precedent and the language of the Indiana Constitution dictate that the voter ID requirement is an unauthorized qualification for casting a ballot.”
“…if the majority were correct that the stature may be saved because it disenfranchises only a few voters, there is nothing in this record that permits us to determine the number of affected voters. Most importantly, I believe we all have an interest in a full and fair electoral process, and the right to vote is of value only if others are granted equal access to the polling booth. A statute that wrongly denies any group of citizens the right to vote harms us all, and therefore may properly be challenged as invalid in its entirety, not merely as to those directly affected. Thus I do not agree with the majority that the remedy the plaintiffs seek here—invalidating the voter ID requirement—is beyond their grasp.”
Read the complete opinion of the Indian Supreme Court, League of Women Voters vs Todd Rokita here.
What Happens Next?
The League of Women Voters of Indiana and Indianapolis is disappointed in the outcome of the Voter ID lawsuit, but it deplores the injustice that the Voter ID law perpetuates. As our foremothers fought for the right of women to cast a ballot, we will continue to work toward equity for all voters as guaranteed by the Indiana Constitution.
Strategies will be discussed regarding moving forward on this issue. In the meantime, LWV continues to strengthen democracy in Indiana by educating and registering voters. From its 90+ years of experience, the League knows that this ruling from the Indiana Supreme Court is not the end. Our vigilant organization strives to protect the freedoms and civic rights of all citizens.
Education and Resources for discussing the League’s Opposition to Voter IDs
LWVUS has a multitude of resources on their website. One area focuses on the Citizens Right to Vote position and another is the action work regarding Election Administration. Check out both for the needs and concerns we face in our election process all over the country.
On a related issue to the Voter I.D. Law, research on the use and counting of provisional ballots has recently been published. Read Michael Pitts, IU School of Law Indianapolis, “Documenting Disenfranchisement: Voter Identification at Indiana’s 2008 General Election.”
In addition LWVUS has a fact sheet which is an easy document to use when discussing this issue with your legislators and others who do not always understand how some voters are affected. It is entitled Opposing ID and Documentary Proof of Citizenship. The Brennan Center also has data from research they have completed from across the nation demonstrating how Voter ID affects the process of democracy on Election Day. It is entitled Fast Facts on the Impact of Photo ID: The Data.
Other items of information and interest related to the actions of LWVIN and LWV of Indianapolis in regards to the Indiana Voter ID Law.
Indiana Secretary of State Election Division
Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) Voter Registration Information
Supporting statement of November 2007 for lawsuit in federal courts.
Press Conference with the Brennan Center for Justice January 2008
Response by Nina Totenberg of NPR following the oral arguments in the Supreme Court of the United States on January 9, 2008 .
Picture Gallery from the visit to the Washington D.C. on January 9, 2008 for the oral arguments in the United States Supreme Court for the Crawford v Marion County Election Board.