May I Have Your ID Please?

August 1, 2012

According to the Huffington Post, the state of Pennsylvania has recently conceded that it has no actual proof of in-person voter fraud despite its having passed one of the strictest voter identification laws in the country.  The purpose of the law is to ensure that only American citizens are voting.  This has become a very contentious issue over the last three years, with nearly half of the states passing some sort of identification requirement at the polls.

In response to these rules, those on the left have argued that such laws disenfranchise large numbers of actual Americans, such as the poor and minorities.  It is argued that many people in these categories do not have as much access to institutions where they would be able to obtain the necessary documentation to meet the identification requirements.  The controversy reached a new high a few weeks ago when Attorney General Eric Holder referred to such laws as an illegitimate “poll tax” and Rick Perry, the governor of Texas and former GOP presidential candidate, demanded that he apologize.  Fights Over Voter ID Grow Fierce, 2012 WLNR 15264795

Apart from all of the discussions that have taken place regarding the constitutionality of voter identification laws, the U.S. Department of Justice has launched an investigation into the legality of the Pennsylvania law under the Voting Rights Act. Justice Department investigating Pennsylvania Voter ID Law, 7/23/12 CNN Wire 23:15:12 

Pennsylvania is also defending a lawsuit by the ACLU, the NAACP and a number of individual plaintiffs regarding this issue.  The docket for this case can be found at: 330 MD 2012 in the Pennsylvania state court dockets.  In addition to the suit against Pennsylvania, several other states have become embroiled in voting registration lawsuits over the last year, including Texas, Alabama, Arizona, and Florida.  You can see the filings, briefs, and opinions from some of these cases using the following search in all state and federal materials in WestlawNext:

TI(“department of justice” “eric holder” “attorney general”) & (vot! /4 regist!) v.r.a. “voter registration act” & DA(last 12 months)

As in Pennsylvania, the proponents of voter id laws across the country vigorously defend their laws even though they can point to very little evidence of an actual problem.  But this hasn’t stopped states from introducing and passing voter identification laws.  To see a sampling of some of the bills and recently passed acts relating to voter id fraud, try the following search in Proposed and Enacted Legislation on WestlawNext:

vot! /5 identif! & non-citizen “not american” “legal permanent resident” alien

Some interesting law reviews on the subject include:

Kelly T. Brewer, Disenfranchise This: State Voter Id Laws and Their Discontents, A Blueprint for Bringing Successful Equal Protection and Poll Tax Claims, 42 Val. U. L. Rev. 191 (2007)

Samuel P. Langholz, Fashioning A Constitutional Voter-Identification Requirement, 93 Iowa L. Rev. 731 (2008)

 Joel A. Heller, Fearing Fear Itself: Photo Identification Laws, Fear of Fraud, and the Fundamental Right to Vote, 62 Vand. L. Rev. 1871, 1878 (2009)