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Court overturns state voter identification law

Katie Peralta | Friday, September 25, 2009

From now on, out-of-state student voters can go to the polls without worrying about possession of an Indiana state identification.

Last Thursday, the Indiana court of Appeals struck down a law requiring voters to have a government-issued photo identification before casting their vote, according to an Associated Press news report.

The U.S. Supreme Court had ruled the original law constitutional last year in a 6-3 ruling. The League of Women Voters challenged the law in state courts, arguing that it violated the state constitution. The case was at first dismissed by a Marion County Court judge, but the League appealed and a panel of judges ruled in its favor, 3-0, the AP reported.

Indiana governor Mitch Daniels called the ruling “an act of judicial arrogance.”

“It would be one thing if this thing had not already been litigated from the bottom up through the federal system, and multiple court rulings – including the Supreme Court of the United States – hadn’t already spoken,” Daniels said.

Critics of the previous law, on the other hand, said it disenfranchised many groups of voters, such as the poor and the elderly, as well as some minority voters.

Additionally, according to the AP, critics argued it does not make sense to require those voting in person to present a photo identification while those voting absentee would not have to – especially in light of the fact their ballots are already susceptible to fraud.

Patrick Bauer, Democratic House Speaker from South Bend, lauded last week’s ruling, according to the AP report.

“This voter ID disenfranchised hundreds if not thousands of voters,” he said. “You’re supposed to treat people equally. We felt the whole law was trying to cut down voters.”

Last November, several Notre Dame students, as well as students from other area universities, were turned away for not having a state photo identification at the polling center at Legends. The Observer reported that the problems many students had at the polls stemmed from misunderstandings about Indiana regulations and the proper type of identification required.

According to a recent South Bend Tribune report, identification cards from private institutions are not considered valid for voting. Out-of-state students would have had to go to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to apply for an Indiana identification card.

A student who registered for an Indiana identification card would have to relinquish his or her home state identification or drivers license.

“I had done my homework and still thought it would be possible to get a simple State ID with a picture as by Indiana law they were required to give it to me for voting purposes,” Michael DellaPenna, a sophomore who was turned away from the polls last year, said.

“What I wasn’t prepared for was giving up my home state’s [Illinois] driver’s license. The Indiana DMV told me I could only have one or the other,” he said. “I didn’t particularly want to give up my Illinois DL so I was stuck in a terrible spot.”

To acquire an Indiana drivers license, he would have had to pass a drivers test as well as fill out a great deal of paperwork, in addition to forfeiting his home state license, DellaPenna said.

With last year’s election being so radical, and Indiana being a traditionally red state, DellaPenna said he knew his vote would mean more in Indiana than in his home state. He therefore did not pursue an absentee ballot from Illinois.

“Overall, the situation was a huge hassle,” he said.

DellaPenna, like other students turned away from the polls, is pleased with last week’s ruling.

“This change in the law is great because it will prevent situations like mine in the future,” he said. “That’s good because I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who felt frustrated with the process.”