Thursday, January 10, 2008

voter id supreme

perhaps you've already read about yesterday's supreme court session on indiana's voter id law. but the best analysis you're going to read is probably the one at scotusblog:

The Supreme Court, studiously avoiding almost all mention that it was examining a thoroughly partisan political battle, spent a spirited hour on Wednesday looking for ways either to scuttle a major test case over voters' rights or to find a way — as if the Justices were writing a law themselves — to soften the impact of a tough state requirement for a photo ID before a voter may cast a ballot at the polls.

Only two Justices — Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Paul Stevens — even hinted at the real-world fact that the photo ID law in Indiana is at the heart of a bitter, ongoing contest reaching well beyond Indiana. It is a dispute between Republicans worried over election fraud supposedly generated by Democrats to pad their votes, and Democrats worried over voter suppression supposedly promoted by Republicans to cut down their opposition. The abiding question at the end: can a decision be written that does not itself sound like a political, rather than a judicial, tract? Can the Court, in short, avoid at least the appearance of another Bush v. Gore?

At issue in the consolidated cases of Crawford v. Marion County Election Board (07-21) and Indiana Democratic Party v. Rokita (07-25) is the constitutionality of a 2005 Indiana law that voters who show up at the polls without a photo ID will be allowed only to cast a provisional ballot, to be validated later at another place only if they can travel there and then prove identity. It has been upheld by the Seventh Circuit Court, leading to appeals to the Supreme Court by Democrats or their state party apparatus.

It was apparent from the outset that the Court's more conservative members were most interested in (a) finding that no one had a right to bring the constitutional challenge, at least at this stage, (b) putting off a challenge until the law has actually been enforced or at least until just before election day, or (c) salvaging as much as possible of the Indiana photo ID requirement on the theory that voter fraud is a problem that states have a legitimate right to try to solve. There was some hand-wringing, particularly by Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., over how difficult it is for a judge to "draw the line" on when a voting requirement would or would not pass a constitutional test.

And it was equally apparent that the Court's more liberal members were most keen about (a) pushing the Court to decide the case now, (b) doing so in a way that at least narrows the impact of the Indiana law on poor or minority voters, and (c) applying some constitutional pressure on the states to regulate voter fraud — if they do so at all — with more specifically targeted statutes.

that pretty much nails it, but do read the whole thing.

this is one of those cases where there's very little actual evidence on either side, so lacking any solid information, neither side has much to fall back on save its own political philosophy (or innate biases, as it were). the bush DoJ practically tore their fingernails off digging for actual evidence of polling place fraud, yet came up empty handed—but still, conservatives remain convinced that it exists.

likewise, it's blatantly obvious to liberals that the law as written is an undue burden on some voters, but the percentage of the population that's potentially disenfranchised is small—the highest estimate of 200,000 hoosiers is still less than 3% of the population, not taking into effect low turnout rates, etc—so finding people who've been denied the right to vote has been difficult. either they eventually went through enough hoops that they were allowed to vote, they filed provisional ballots but never came back to certify them, or, knowing that they couldn't obtain adequate id, they simply stayed home instead of wasting their time going to the polls.

so it's hardly a surprise that a supreme court which president bush has managed to stack with conservatives would be leaning 5-4 in favor of indiana's voter id law. that's just the nature of today's court. and if they rule that crawford didn't have proper standing to bring this case at this time, then it looks like the only way to challenge the law will be for democrats to find some actual disenfranchised voters. i'm convined they'll be able to do it eventually, but it might take a couple elections. sadly, that means that the damage will already be done by the time we can get the law changed—at least judicially. of course, the best way to fix the law is probably legislatively.

one other, semi-related story: if you've been reading the rightie blogs you might've noticed them trumpeting something about some "voter id poster child" who was somehow "busted" which blah blah something or other. if you're like me—and i've been actively following the voter id story for some time—your reaction was probably "who the hell are they talking about? poster child, wtf?"

but, reading through the story, we see that faye buis-ewing is a 72-year-old woman who did not have proper id to vote in 2006, so she went through a four-hour kafkaesque ordeal in order to get id so she could cast her ballot—which she did. this is the kind of story that wouldn't convince voter id proponents anyway—"she got the id and voted, so who cares?", they'd say. but it turns out that the reason she didn't have proper id is because she's a snowbird who winters in florida and thus has a florida id, which poll workers wouldn't accept. she was also registered to vote in florida, although the article states clearly that she had never done so.

right-wingers are crowing that this proves... actually, i'm not even sure what they think this proves. that old ladies get confused by election laws? her story remains the same: an elderly woman spent four hours in bureaucratic limbo in order to get id so she could vote. sounds like an undue hardship to me. she's clearly not someone trying to defraud the electoral system; she's just an old lady who got confused and signed some papers she shouldn't have. whether you like it or not, folks, the constitution guarantees the right to vote to the mildly senile, not just the young & mentally spry.


Anonymous said...

I love you, man. Why? You use the very same argumentation that you decry in your opponents' to validate your own partisan position. And seemingly, don't/can't recognize it. Before you get your back up, I'm sure I do it too. It's way too easy a trap to fall into. At least you catch me out on it sometimes. ;)

But beyond that, let's discuss, if you will, a couple of your more cogent points.

First, you ask if a decision can be made than appears judicial, rather than political. Do you think there can be? I don't. Why, you might ask? Because the increasing polarization/politicization of the SCOTUS over the last 30 some years may preclude the possibility. No matter which way the Court comes down on this, one side or the other is going to to be whining "Foul!".

Next, the continual dredging up of the BvG decision is short-sighted, at best. You, or I, frankly have no idea just how "history" is going to remember that particular case. We can make assumptions, which may end up being correct, or not, but in the main what contemporary sources say versus what "history" says about any political event do not necessarily end up on the same page. I notice that most references to BvG don't quite seem to mention the blatant partisanship displayed by the Florida Supreme Court when they had previously considered the matter. Somewaht selective evidence, in my opinion.

Then there is the idea that the cases may have been filed prematurely. I completely understand the "why" of the initiation dates of the suits, but it appears to me that neither plaintiff really spent much time considering the long term implications that filing before damage (if I might use that phrase) might actually hurt more than help their case(s). You and I probably can't answer that one, and I have yet to find a sufficiently adequate answer from either the plaintiffs or their counsel in the SCOTUS presentation.

"Blatantly obvious"..."to some voters". And then some unsubstantiated numbers (drawn from some kind of theoretical assumptions on the part of the pliantiffs at varying points). Lucky for the plaintiffs that the respondents "numbers" appear to be similarly drawn from the ethereal. Statements like that only play to the home team. But, whether here on the leftie side, or over on the rightie side, I suppose that pandering to your own kind does seem to prove most popular.

Ah, poor liberals missed out on stacking the Court in their own favor during the Clinton years, so crying for sympathy is the ploy of the day? Over the years of the 20th century, the SCOTUS' political leanings have shifted from one end of the spectrum back to the other several times. I suppose the other side whined just as piteously when the penduluum wasn't on their side of the fence, but try to show a little sense of historical perspective about it. Otherwise, to some, it just sounds like really squishy old grapes being stepped on.

As to the woman caught up with being double registered, please. 72 years old isn't necessarily old, and quite a few 70+ year olds are still quite mentally active. It makes it appear that you have some kind of ageism bias (which isn't a particularly appealing personality attribute for a self-professed liberal). And what would Wilson think?

Finally, even though it was almost lost in all of the rest, was your statement that the best way to approach this is legislatively. I agree. If the Voter I.D. law is upheld, then it validates lagislation. If the Voter I.D. law is overturned by the SCOTUS (and it might be, because there are some inherent flaws in it, as it stands), then I would presume that a new effort at some kind of amended legislation would be promulgated by the Indiana Legislature. Whether such a supposed attempt might proceed, or even ultimately succeed is a discussion for another day.

I might have missed a thing or two, but this is already longer than a Republican can stomach, so I'll stop.

stAllio! said...

i'm not even sure what you're talking about.

first off, i "use the very same argumentation that you decry in your opponents' to validate your own partisan position. And seemingly, don't/can't recognize it." actually, not only do i recognize it, but that was the point of the first 2/3 of the post. you know, all that stuff about how neither side has any real evidence?

then, you spend half your comment addressing stuff from scotusblog, yet you attribute it to me.

next, as for my "unsubstantiated numbers": like i said, it was "the highest estimate", and my point was that even that is a relatively small number of people. i don't get your objection.

and where am i crying for sympathy? were you remotely surprised that the alito court would be inclined to reject this challenge? of course you weren't.

finally, as for accusing me of ageism: don't make me laugh. 72 makes her a senior, she's obviously a retiree, and by her own admission she's "confused". calling her senile is far nicer than what they're saying on the right-wing blogs or even the comments on the article.

Anonymous said...

Then you don't recognize it. I wasn't talking about the "lack of evidence" thing. I was talking about argumentation methodologies, in general. Not all used here today (yet), but Observational Selection, Unsupported Claims, Glittering Generalities, Faulty Syllogisms, Non Sequitors, Delegitimization of One's Opponent, Application of Labels, and Simplistic Slogans, for example.

Ah, I missed the quotations from the scotusblog, then. It sure read like it was your opinions.

As to numbers, which applies equally to both sides here, is that the numbers are fantasy. The assumptions are based upon suspect premises. That isn't a criticism of you. It was a comment about the "statistics" provided as evidentiary support by both sides.

"(S)o it's hardly a surprise that a supreme court which president bush has managed to stack with conservatives would be leaning 5-4 in favor of indiana's voter id law." Dude, that's whining. (managed to stack).

As to your laughter, you are being obtuse, at best. If I got caught out breaking laws in both states I owned property in, I might be claiming "confusion" too (no matter how old I was). Oh, and she was whining as well, 'all Snowbirds do it'. Yeah, that's makes it all better, unprovable evidence based upon indeterminate other parties.

Not all retirees are senile, elderly or confused, and this isn't Logan's Run. Saying otherwise is actually quite condescending of you (or worse, playing for false sympathy). Very nice.

stAllio! said...

my father is retired, and he isn't senile. nice straw man argument, though.

i love it. you're the one who's effectively calling this woman a devious felon, and yet somehow i'm the one who's being mean to her.

Anonymous said...

That is not an uncommon belief among seniors, in my experience, anyway. A relative of mine (who shall remain nameless) was registered (as a Republican!) in the Midwest and in Arizona, and when family members figured it out and chastised him, he said "It's fine. I'm only actually voting in one state. I vote in the primary in Iowa and the election in Arizona. There's nothing wrong; I'm not voting twice."

All of the seniors in his senior RV park in Arizona were assured it was "all right" by a college Republican with a clipboard who swung through the park and double-registered them at one fell swoop.

Anonymous said...

You called the woman in question, old lady, elderly, and mildly senile, not I. You project your own interpretation of her actions without the slightest shred of evidence, one way or the other. You infer whatever you want to based solely upon her age. Now, if you can't stand being called out on that, then you are less that I had previously thought.

I didn't calll the woman a "devious felon", you did. Nice, trying to put your own words into my mouth. Even if she was charged with something, I believe that both actions on her part are no more than misdemeanors. That doesn't make one a felon.

I think I'm done here. You appear to be totally incapable of accepting anything that falls outside of your own precocious, preconceived world view even if you tripped over it. Even the possibility that someone else with a different point of view could be right about something is seemingly lacking here. I always believed that an inability to ever be able to acknowledge any validity in another's point of view to be usually left behind with adolescence. Now, I see that isn't always the case. See? I can admit when I'm wrong.

stAllio! said...

read the article again, dude. it claims she "signed an oath that she was a Florida resident and understood that falsifying the voter application was a third-degree felony punishable by prison and a fine up to $5,000."

you apparently don't believe her claims she was confused, so you're basically accusing her of knowingly committing a felony. which is meaner: taking her at her word that she was confused (and thus possibly a bit senile), or suggesting that she's lying and knowingly committed a felony?

but if you'd prefer to believe that i'm the stubborn asshole, go right ahead. i'm sure the thought is comforting to you.