Not burdensome

I was tempted not to post on Monday’s SCOTUS decision in Crawford v. Marion County, No. 07-21 (Apr. 28, 2008 ), because I’ve never grasped what possible, plausible argument could be made that requiring a voter ID card is unconstitutional.

However, once I saw the following author line, it alone merits some discussion:

JUSTICE STEVENS announced the judgment of the Court and delivered an opinion in which THE CHIEF JUSTICE and JUSTICE KENNEDY join.

The more I read Senior Associate Justice Stevens’ opinion, the more I am convinced that any opposition to this law is–in Justice Scalia‘s words–“sheer applesauce.” See Zuni Public School District No. 89 v. Department of Education, No. 05–1508 (April 17, 2007) (Scalia, J., joined by Roberts, C.J., Thomas, J., and Souter, J., as to Part I, dissenting).

First, the voter ID cards the law requires are issued to voters at no cost. Slip. op. at 15 (Stevens, J., joined by Roberts, C.J., and Kennedy, J.). So all the bemoaning you may have read in the press or in the dissent regarding how this decision affirms what amounts to a poll tax is utter gibberish.

Even more amazingly, the law even provides for people who can’t obtain a voter ID (potentially including “elderly persons born out-of-state, who may have difficulty obtaining a birth certificate;18 persons who because of economic or other personal limitations may find it difficult either to secure a copy of their birth certificate or to assemble the other required documentation to obtain a state-issued identification; homeless persons; and persons with a religious objection to being photographed”), the ability to vote provisionally and then sign a free affidavit at the county courthouse. See id.

Justice Stevens even manages to get in some benchslappery directed at his colleague in dissent, Justice Souter:

Supposition based on extensive Internet research is not an adequate substitute for admissible evidence subject to cross-examination in constitutional adjudication.

Id. at 18 n.20.

Unsurprisingly, Justice Scalia boils the whole case down to its constitutional core in his concurrence:

The universally applicable requirements of Indiana’s voter-identification law are eminently reasonable. The burden of acquiring, possessing, and showing a free photo identification is simply not severe, because it does not “even represent a significant increase over the usual burdens of voting.” And the State’s interests, ante, at 7–13, are sufficient to sustain that minimal burden. That should end the matter. That the State accommodates some voters by permitting (not requiring) the casting of absentee or provisional ballots, is an indulgence—not a constitutional imperative that falls short of what is required.

Slip. op. at 6 (Scalia, J., joined by Thomas and Alito, J.J., concurring) (citations omitted).

Thx to the Austin Political Report and the NY Times

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