Poor, black and elderly people tend to be less likely than others to have the photo identification required to vote under Indiana law, opponents of the law said Tuesday, citing a survey of prospective voters.
Democrats, too, are less likely to have the right ID, said the foes who filed a legal brief Tuesday in an effort to persuade the Supreme Court the law is unfair and should be overturned. The court will hear arguments in the case early next year, in the middle of the 2008 election campaign.
The state has defended the law as a way to combat voter fraud. Opponents say it unfairly targets poor and minority voters, without any evidence that voter cheating is a problem in Indiana.
“The alleged ill that this is out to correct doesn’t really exist,” said Justin Levitt, counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law, which filed a brief arguing against the law. “There’s no real justification for putting these people through this.”
The survey, led by a researcher at the University of Washington, found that 86 percent of white eligible voters had current, valid photo identification, compared to 73 percent of black eligible voters.
While many people have driver’s licenses or other identification, the study confirmed that many others don’t, said researcher Matt A. Barreto.
“It is a very significant issue and one that most people take for granted,” he said.
Politics was also found to be a factor. About 41 percent of those who have valid identification said they were Republican, while 32 percent were Democrats. Of those without ID, 34 percent were Republican and 38 percent were Democrats.
Among registered voters in Indiana, nearly 91 percent of those between 55 and 69 had a current ID, compared with about 80 percent of people 18-34 and about 84 percent of those over the age of 70. About 88 percent of registered voters making at least $40,000 a year had current ID, compared with about 82 percent of those making less than $40,000 a year, the study found.
The results came from a statewide telephone survey conducted in October. There were 1,000 interviews with registered voters, with a margin of potential sampling error of 3.1 percent, and 500 interviews among non-registered adults with a margin of error of 4.4 percent. Researchers oversampled low-income residents and black people, conducting more interviews for a more reliable result.
Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita, a Republican and a defendant in the case, has said the law simply prevents voter fraud. He has said, “This case has been through the courts and, more importantly, it’s been in the court called Election Day.”
He was not available for immediate comment on the study Tuesday.
The Indiana law, enacted in 2005, was upheld by a federal judge and by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. Before the law passed, Indiana voters had only to sign poll books at the polling place, where photocopies of their signatures were kept on file for comparison.
Courts have upheld voter ID laws in Arizona and Michigan, but struck down Missouri’s. Earlier this month, a federal judge dismissed a challenge to Georgia’s law, saying the statute did not impose a significant burden on the right to vote.
Election law experts had urged the Supreme Court to take the Indiana case to instruct courts on how to weigh claims of voter fraud versus those of disenfranchisement. The court is expected to issue a decision by late June 2008, in time for the November general election, which includes the race for president.
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