The General Assembly shall not grant to any citizen, or class of citizens, privileges or immunities, which, upon the same terms, shall not equally belong to all citizens.
– Article 1, Section 23, Indiana Constitution
A misguided 2005 state law requires Indiana voters to produce an identification card with their photos when they cast their ballots at the polls.
Voters who mail in an absentee ballot face no such requirement.
On its face, the voter ID law makes it harder for people who vote on Election Day than for people who mail in a ballot – and as the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Thursday, that makes the law unconstitutional.
The Voter ID Law treats in-person voters disparate from mail-in voters, conferring partial treatment upon mail-in voters, the court noted matter-of-factly in its ruling.
Not surprisingly, state Republican officials who supported the voter ID law criticized the unanimous court ruling from the three-judge court, which included former Allen Superior Court Judge Paul Mathias.
Gov. Mitch Daniels derided the court, calling the ruling a preposterous decision and an act of judicial arrogance.
The gamesmanship going on here is irresponsible and needs to stop, Secretary of State Todd Rokita said.
Both noted that the U.S. Supreme Court had already upheld the law, arguing that was enough. Given their positions, both Daniels and Rokita should know that the federal courts ruled on how the U.S. Constitution applies to the law, while the state Court of Appeals ruled on how the state constitution applies. The magnificent Indiana constitution conveys more rights to citizens and, in some ways, has clearer language than the U.S. Constitution. The federal and state court issues were not the same.
Surely, the governor and secretary of state should be among the loudest voices in demanding the state constitution be upheld. Instead, both scoffed at the state judges for daring to rule that the state constitution demands equality.
The voter ID law was always a solution in search of a non-existent problem. No one has produced proof that any Hoosier has ever pretended to be someone else at the voting polls. Indeed, it is the absentee ballots that are more often in question. The Republican law could be an attempt to reduce turnout by people who might have difficulty producing a birth certificate or other document necessary to get a photo ID, primarily people who are poorer – in other words, people who tend to vote Democratic.
The law has potential to become even more onerous as the Bureau of Motor Vehicles institutes rules that will make it even more difficult to get a drivers license or, for non-drivers, a state identification card.
Some continue to force us to use taxpayer dollars on an issue that has already been reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court, Rokita said, but dont be surprised if he is at the front of the line in arguing that the state should spend more taxpayer dollars to appeal this ruling to the Indiana Supreme Court.
If the state Supreme Court agrees that the law is unconstitutional – and that seems likely – Republican legislators are apt to seek to require absentee voters to produce ID as well. The better course would be to simply allow the unneeded law to die.
The right to vote is among the most sacred and important of all rights in a democracy, and making it more difficult for one type of voter to cast a ballot is blatantly wrong. The Court of Appeals judges simply recognized that the state constitution means what it says.