Voting laws fix to nonexistent issue

South Bend Tribune

When the Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s voter identification law in 2008, the decision opened the door for state legislatures across the country to pass even stricter voting laws.

Today, many of those laws are being overturned by federal courts. But the Hoosier law is unlikely to be affected by the spate of successful challenges to other voter ID laws.

That’s because Indiana’s voter ID law is different in that it provides ways to get around the requirement to show photo identification.

Proponents of voter ID laws, which have been pushed in large part by Republican-led legislatures, argue that they’re necessary to prevent voter fraud.

Those who oppose such laws point out that the restrictions disproportionately affect certain groups — young people, minorities, lower-income people — who just happen to be reliable Democratic voters.

Claims of widespread voter fraud — GOP nominee Donald Trump recently claimed that people could vote “like 10 times” in states without strict voter ID laws — are viewed with much skepticism by election law experts.

A Washington Post investigation found 31 credible instances of voter fraud from 2000 to 2014 — out of an estimated 1 billion ballots cast in the United States during that period. In fact, experts say voting fraud is most often associated with absentee balloting, rather than the kind of impersonation voting that ID laws are designed to combat.

A phrase used in a federal appeals court’s unanimous ruling striking down North Carolina’s voting law cuts to the heart of the matter.

The 2013 law, which introduced new voter ID requirements, eliminated same-day registration and cut down on early voting, targeted minorities “with almost surgical precision,” the court said.

The three-judge panel noted that before passing the law, North Carolina legislators asked for data on the use, by race, of a number of voting practices.

It was only after receiving that information that the General Assembly “enacted legislation that restricted voting and registration in five different ways, all of which disproportionately affected African Americans.”

Other states, including Wisconsin and North Dakota, have seen their voter ID laws overturned by the courts in recent months. Just last week, the state of Texas agreed to substantially soften its voter ID law after the photo ID requirements were struck down as a violation of the Voting Rights Act.

The Supreme Court hasn’t taken up the issue yet, so lower court rulings will stand for now.

Again, this wave of change probably won’t hit Indiana. So why should Hoosiers care about what’s happening in other states if it doesn’t directly affect them?

Because voting is a sacred right that shouldn’t be manipulated for partisan reasons.

And that’s just what legislatures have attempted to do with bad voter ID laws that are a “solution” to a problem that’s virtually nonexistent.

For the sake of every single American, including those who fought and died to claim the right to vote — the laws must continue to be challenged.

This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to