Wednesday, June 25, 2008

article in indiana lawyer about my voter id case.

.... ‘Flipping Crawford on its head’

A point in the League of Women voters suit is what Indianapolis attorney and registered voter Robbin Stewart argues is a main thrust of his lawsuit, filed well before the May primary in state court and since removed to federal court; he hasn’t gotten a resolution and the primary has come and gone.

In the LWV suit, the organization points out that many of its members do possess a driver’s license but philosophically object to “being compelled to produce at the polls the restrictive form of identification” now required.

Stewart said he’s coming at his suit as “one of the 99 percent who do have the required identification.” That’s what makes this different from Crawford, which came at the issue from the perspective of those burdened voters without ID, he said.

“Yes, I do see this as a sequel,” Stewart said, noting that this is an as-applied challenge for which the Crawford court specifically left the door open. “I’ve been turned away from voting, and that’s not right.”

Stewart filed a state suit in Marion County on April 18. He made similar claims as the LWV did, but the defendants – Marion County, Clerk Beth White, and three unnamed “Jane Does” who were the election workers who prevented his voting – moved to remove the case to the Southern District of Indiana and that happened June 16, despite Stewart’s objections. The Indianapolis federal judge also dismissed the claims against the election workers, though allowing him to re-file if he obtains names.

Regarding his lawsuit, Stewart said he has been turned away – not because he doesn’t have a valid, state-issued driver’s license, but because he philosophically opposes being forced to show it to vote. It’s different when going to an airport or driving a car, because those aren’t constitutional rights, he said. When asked casually to show his ID, he hesitates at first but agrees to produce it only because he isn’t being forced to do so.

Though he has an ID, Stewart pointed out he has been burdened by this law in the year that he didn’t have a driver’s license and struggled to get one in the first year the Indiana statute went into effect in 2005. He’d misplaced the license, and said he had to pay to travel to Delaware to get a birth certificate copy from his mother. He then had an issue with the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles after that because he’d legally changed his name when he was young and the records didn’t match, and the branch wouldn’t accept documentation about the name change as confirmation.

“It’s a catch-22 and is more hassle than reasonable,” he said, adding the issue was resolved about a year later. “I vote because it’s important to me, but some would rather stay home than go through this.”

He claims in his suit that election workers and authorities shouldn’t be able to demand his identification for voting without a search warrant, and that violates Fourth Amendment rights against search and seizures. He also contends that due process and other constitutional amendments are being violated by this state law.

“In America, you don’t go around showing your paperwork to everyone when you’re just exercising your right to walk down the street or cast a vote that counts. You should get upset about that,” he said.

Now, those state constitutional arguments have mostly dissolved as the federal questions are considered. The parties have through July and August to file documents with the court to explain how any portion of the suit can proceed post-Crawford.

Stewart worries that his suit could get bogged down with issues that won’t ultimately lead to any adequate resolution.

“Honestly, I assumed the ACLU and the Democrats would win in Crawford,” he said. “Afterward, I saw the hope that we could preserve this possibility for the Indiana courts to consider. I’d still like t
o see that happen, but if it doesn’t, I intend to get to the merits eventually.” •

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