WASHINGTON - The mainstream League of Women Voters lashed out at the U.S. Supreme Court this week, calling its decision on voter identification "a disgraceful decision by a court that has no credibility on election issues."
League President May G. Wilson added that the Court's rejection of a challenge to Indiana's policy requiring voters to show a government-issued photo ID is "a bad decision for democracy" and a "concerted effort to disenfranchise legal voters."
Wilson's words echoed a similar outpouring of fury from a wide array of voter and civil rights groups following Monday's 6-3 Supreme Court decision.
ACLU Legal Director Steven R. Shapiro argued that "we should be seeking ways to encourage more people to vote, not inventing excuses to deny citizens their constitutional rights."
At the heart of the controversy is whether requiring a photo ID places an undue burden on potential voters who are unlikely to have a passport or a driver's license -- the two most commonly accepted forms of photo ID.
People for the American Way called the threat of voter fraud "a ruse," pointing to numerous studies showing that millions of eligible voters lack the type of ID Indiana requires, including senior citizens who no longer drive, students, the disabled, minorities, and low-income people.
The state of Indiana argued that the burden of obtaining a photo ID is minimal compared to the goal of preventing voting fraud. But the ACLU points out that Indiana offered no proof that voter fraud was at issue in the state, noting that no cases of in-person voting fraud have been prosecuted in recent history.
Civil rights groups suggest that the Court's decision, coming on the eve of a presidential election and Indiana's primary, in which an African American is a serious contender, has partisan overtones and intent.
President John Payton of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund charged: "Without doubt, thousands of otherwise eligible African Americans and other minority voters who would have wanted to participate in what is perhaps the most historic election in our lifetime will not be able to vote under mandatory voter ID requirements."
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, who also sits on the Democratic National Committee, called laws like Indiana's "a cynical attempt to suppress turnout among groups who tend to vote for candidates who prioritize working families' issues, including lower-income Americans and people of color."
Voter rights organizations involved in the case, Crawford v. Marion County, pledged yesterday to continue the fight against restrictive voter ID requirements. Since the Supreme Court based its argument on lack of evidence that the ID requirement constitutes a "burden," the groups vow to gather evidence to the contrary.
The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU's law school, meanwhile, is drafting legislation aimed at enabling universal voting registration for consideration by Congress.
"We see a thrilling surge of citizen engagement and participation in this election," said the Center's executive director Michael Waldman. "This should be the time to craft new voter registration laws to make sure that every citizen who wants to vote, can vote."
Waldman called Monday's Supreme Court decision "the most important voting case since Bush v. Gore."
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