The federal judge who ruled in favor of the first landmark voter ID case is now admitting he made a mistake. In 2005, Indiana adopted a photo ID requirement for voters, and Court of Appeals Judge Richard Posner upheld the law, the New York Times says, “because he saw no evidence that any voters would be disenfranchised, and reducing vote fraud was a legitimate state goal — despite the fact that Indiana had never prosecuted anyone for that crime.” In 2008, the US Supreme Court upheld Posner’s ruling and every state since then has used the Indiana case to defend their version of a photo ID law. In a new book, Posner now says he didn’t realize how ID rules could be maneuvered to create stiff barriers and admits he was “guilty” of upholding a law “widely regarded as a means of voter suppression rather than of fraud prevention.”
As in Indiana, North Carolina did not present any evidence of voter impersonation while adopting a law that became much more than a photo ID requirement. But as this op-ed column explaining the Justice Department’s challenge of the NC law points out, legislators did have plenty of evidence that the new restrictions would harm many voters, especially African Americans – and they enacted them anyway. The one voting method the NC law expands – access to mail-in absentee voting – is an option used more heavily by white and Republican voters; but hard evidence and experts across the political spectrum say absentee voting is the method of choice for those who want to cheat. Let’s hope that federal judges recognize that the way NC lawmakers cherry-picked election changes to disadvantage African Americans and young voters is unconstitutional and the Justice Department’s challenge prevails.