The NAACP Legal Defense Fund has filed its amicus brief in the voter I.D. case soon to be heard by the Supreme Court. Here is the Summary of the Argument:
Although the Court of Appeals seems to trivialize the value of the right to vote, describing “the benefits of voting to the individual” as “elusive,” Crawford v. Marion County Election Bd., 472 F.3d 949, 951 (7th Cir. 2007), that characterization is plainly contrary to the Constitution and this Court’s jurisprudence. Instead, “the right to exercise the franchise in a free and unimpaired manner is preservative of other basic civic and political rights.” Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 562 (1964). The Indiana statute at issue in these cases demands, therefore, not only a searching review of the burden imposed on individuals, but also consideration of the disproportionate burdens faced by voters who have enjoyed unfettered access to the vote as a result of this Court’s precedents.
We agree with petitioners that the impact on some individuals — effective vote denial — is significant and requires Indiana’s law to be invalidated. See Burdick v. Takushi, 504 U.S. 428,
434 (1992). We urge the Court to consider the likelihood that laws like Indiana’s photo identification requirement will disfranchise some of the most vulnerable communities in our nation, whose access to the ballot is critical to the integrity of our participatory democracy.
Millions of Americans do not possess the form of government-issued photo identification required under Indiana’s law, and that group is disproportionately poor and minority. Accordingly, the impact of laws like Indiana’s, which conditions the right to vote on the presentation of identification, will effectively fence out of the electorate significant numbers of African Americans, and will have a particularly burdensome impact in the places where impoverished African Americans are concentrated. Significantly, Indiana’s law stands as a barrier not only to voters who have previously participated under state voting standards that afforded greater access, as also to the political mobilization of eligible, but yet unregistered citizens whose right to participate is of no less constitutional import. The demographic profile of Indiana bears this out. Although Indiana’s law requiring the presentation of government-issued photo identification may not, at first glance, appear to have a pernicious impact, poor African Americans will bear the burden of the restriction more than any other group.
Moreover, because there can be no question that areas of concentrated poverty include a disproportionately high number of citizens who lack the type of identification that would meet the demands of Indiana’s law, there is significant reason for concern that the adoption of similar photo identification requirements would have an extraordinary impact at the local level in many places. Such statutes would threaten to disfranchise significant portions of the electorate in many cities and counties.
Taken together, the primacy of voting in our democracy, the stringency of the Indiana law, and the reality that the franchise has long provided our nation’s socio-economically disadvantaged racial minorities with the only tangible means of accessing the political process and asserting their interests, should lead this Court to employ its strictest review and invalidate the statute.
Download the file here