The editorial goes on to say: "The question, however, is whether that sort of fraud is widespread enough to justify imposing a requirement that could disenfranchise a significant number of qualified voters. That case has not been made, and the evidence is overwhelming that recent photo ID laws -- and other legislation likely to reduce turnout -- are politically motivated."
The editorial says, "In an embarrassing display of candor, the Republican leader of Pennsylvania's House, in rattling off a series of legislative accomplishments, said, 'Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania -- done!'"
Hey wait a minute, the liberal-leaning The New Republic says.
Writing under the headline "Will Voter ID Laws Cost Obama Re-election?" writer Nate Cohn says 9.2 percent of registered voters in Pennsylvania "lack photo identification, including 18 percent of registered voters in heavily Democratic Philadelphia. But these flashy numbers might be misleading. If voter ID laws have consequences for voter turnout, they're difficult to detect."
Studies after the 2006 midterm elections indicated a slight link between voter ID laws and lower turnout, but even given the minority push for Obama in 2008, "The final [opinion] polls [in voter ID states Georgia and Indiana] were dead-on. If voters were turned away at the polls," Cohn says in the magazine, "it wasn't enough to sway the results. Potential voters might have been dissuaded due to their lack of identification, but since the polls were accurate, they must not have been included in polls of likely voters. For that same reason, the pre-election polls should remain accurate in 2012."
To add to the confusion, there's no real U.S. Supreme Court precedent to rely on.
In 2008's Crawford vs. Marion County, the justices by a vote of 6-3 approved Indiana's voter ID law, brushing aside Democratic challenges.
But the prevailing opinion was written by liberal Justice John Paul Stevens, and only two other members of the court, conservatives Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy, joined it.
Stevens said Indiana has a legitimate interest in protecting the integrity of its elections, and protecting the public's confidence in elections. Stevens dismissed concerns that majority Republicans in the Legislature were trying to suppress the Democratic vote -- their motive didn't matter.
"While the record contains no evidence that the fraud [the voter ID law] addresses -- in-person voter impersonation at polling places -- has actually occurred in Indiana," Stevens conceded, "such fraud has occurred in other parts of the country, and Indiana's own experience with voter fraud in a 2003 mayoral primary demonstrates a real risk that voter fraud could affect a close election's outcome."
Stevens said, "Because Indiana's [photo ID] cards are free, the inconvenience of going to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, gathering required documents and posing for a photograph does not qualify as a substantial burden on most voters' right to vote, or represent a significant increase over the usual burdens of voting."
Three conservative court members, Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, joined in the judgment but not in Stevens' opinion. In a separate opinion, they said Indiana's voter ID law should be upheld because its overall burden is minimal and justified.
Three liberal justices dissented. Justice David Souter, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, said the Indiana voter ID law "threatens to impose non-trivial burdens on the voting right of tens of thousands of the state's citizens ... and a significant percentage of those individuals are likely to be deterred from voting."
He added Indiana officials "fail to justify the practical limitations placed on the right to vote, and the law imposes an unreasonable and irrelevant burden on voters who are poor and old."
Dissenting separately, Justice Stephen Breyer said, "I believe the statute is unconstitutional because it imposes a disproportionate burden upon those eligible voters who lack a driver's license or other statutorily valid form of photo ID."
How the justices would vote when they hear the challenge to the Texas voter ID law is uncertain. Stevens and Souter have retired -- replaced by fellow liberals, Justices Sonia Sotomayor, a Hispanic, and Elena Kagan.
The contours of the Texas case are significantly different from the Indiana case, with evidence introduced at trial of significant burdens for rural Hispanics.
However, if the court rules along its 5-4 ideological fault line -- if some liberal or some conservative doesn't break ranks -- the decision might be thrown onto the brush pile of political rulings that continue to diminish the Supreme Court's reputation.
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