The Supreme Court's decision Monday to uphold Indiana's photo-ID law in elections will permit Republican-dominated legislatures in other states to pass legislation that liberal political advocates say will disenfranchise poorer, Democratic-leaning voters.
Project Vote, a liberal-leaning voter-registration group, said 59 voter-ID bills have been introduced in 24 states, nearly all of them by Republicans, during the 2008 legislative session. Republican legislators in 11 states also are pushing bills to require proof of citizenship to register to vote.
More than 20 states, including Arizona, require some type of identification at the polls. The Supreme Court, on a 6-3 vote, ruled that Indiana has a "valid interest in protecting the integrity and reliability of the electoral process,' " Justice John Paul Stevens said in an opinion that was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Stevens said Indiana's desire to prevent fraud and to inspire voter confidence in the election system are important even though there have been no reports of the kind of fraud the law was designed to combat. The law does not apply to absentee balloting, where election experts agree the threat of fraud is higher.
The use of photo IDs as a way to curb voter fraud has become a touchstone for Democrats, who accuse the GOP of engaging in a vast conspiracy to restrict voting of the poor, the elderly and minorities.
Congress investigated the Bush administration's Justice Department last year over allegations that its Civil Rights Division had twisted enforcement of the nation's voting-rights laws to aid Republicans and had authorized restrictive voter-ID laws in various states.