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Voter ID Laws Ripe for Supreme Court Review
A Backlash Against Voter ID Law Restrictions
Virginia’s voter ID law leads a list of voting rights cases headed to the Supreme Court.
Unfortunately, they arrived too late to an understaffed Supreme Court to make any difference in the November 2016 general election, according to a report by The Legal Forum ().
The U.S. District Court in Richmond has upheld Virginia’s Voter ID law, SB 1256, which requires voters to present a form of statutorily-approved identification before they can vote. Approved identification includes Virginia driver’s licenses, U.S. passports and other photo identification issued by the state.
Student identification and employee badges are not adequate to register and vote under the law.
State lawmakers say they are trying to protect the voting process from fraud and from votes by unauthorized persons, such as illegal immigrants. Reform advocates say the law discriminates against low income persons who might lack driver’s licenses and other approved government identification.
Similar voter identification cases have been heard by courts in Texas and Wisconsin, which also led to appeals now ripe for review by the Supreme Court.
A federal appeals court ruled that Texas’ voter identification law violates the Voting Rights Act. The court ordered the state to find a way to accommodate voters who would be eligible to vote if not for their difficulty in obtaining the necessary documents.
However, since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February, the Supreme Court is lacking a potential tie-breaker among its remaining eight members. As a result, any rulings that could affect who wins the White House are likely to be issued sometime after the November election.
Other voting rights cases likely to reach the Supreme Court include a dispute over a North Carolina law that requires a photo ID, eliminates same-day registration and reduces the number of days available for early voting. The Supreme Court allowed the restrictions during a 2014 election despite dissents from Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor. The lingering controversy brought them back to the federal appeals court.
Voting rights cases in Kansas, Georgia and Alabama are propelled largely by growing outrage against illegal immigration. Each of the states requires proof of citizenship before someone can register to vote, which has prompted opposition from civil rights activists.
In Ohio, a dispute over eliminating a period known as Golden Week still is pending in federal court but could make it to the Supreme Court soon. Golden Week allows voters to register and vote on the same day. The Supreme Court ruled previously by a 5-to-4 margin that the state could abolish Golden Week for the 2014 vote but the decision did not ease the controversy.