If you ask the average Democrat about voting fraud, you'll almost certainly be told it's not a big problem. Ask the same question to a Republican and chances are you'll find out it's a significant and prevalent concern. Which side is right? I don't know. Nor do I need to know, when contemplating the propriety of voter ID laws. Any voter fraud is a problem. The casting of a single fraudulent vote necessarily renders moot the casting of a legitimate one. Considering how fundamental a right voting is, don't we owe it to ourselves to take steps to ensure the integrity of our elections? Many states, including Wisconsin, have grappled with that question. Some have enacted laws requiring voters to present a government-issued ID at the polls. Indiana is among states that have added this provision. Like elsewhere, the Hoosier State's law was challenged in court by those alleging it prevents certain people from voting. It was upheld at the federal district court level and by the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Now the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to enter the fray and hear the Indiana case. In the process, it will provide closure on the issue before the 2008 elections. The high court can't force a state to adopt a voter ID law, of course, but it could prevent states from enacting such laws if it finds them to be unconstitutional. In making that determination, the Supreme Court will essentially be asking two questions: Is there a compelling interest served by enacting a voter ID law, and does the law impose an undue burden that prevents certain people from voting? The conclusion the Court reaches should be yes and no, respectively, though they admittedly will have to wade through much circumstantial evidence to get there. Opponents of voter ID laws argue that such efforts are really underhanded attempts to suppress votes from certain segments of the electorate, namely the poor and minorities. Judge Terence Evans from the 7th Circuit decision said as much in the first sentence of his dissenting opinion: "Let's not beat around the bush: The Indiana voter photo ID law is a not too thinly-veiled attempt to discourage election-day turnout by certain folks believed to skew Democrat[s]." Though it's troubling that voter ID opponents like Mr. Evans feel comfortable in so flippantly attributing such nefarious intentions to the law's supporters, it's also true that nobody could reasonably argue a voter ID law would help the prospects of the Democratic Party. Then again, there's no evidence that it would hurt Democrats either. Telling is the list of plaintiffs challenging the Indiana law. The Democratic Party of Indiana has led the legal fight, yet as the 7th Circuit's majority opinion observes, "There is not a single plaintiff who intends not to vote because of the new law — that is, who would vote were it not for the law." Not one. In the entire state! The Democratic Party could not find a single person who claimed the law altered his or her intended voting habits. It's probably part laziness or sloppiness on the part of the Democratic Party, but it also doesn't speak well of the claim that vast swaths of voters would be disfranchised by a voter ID requirement. The burden is, after all, nothing more than the presentation of a photo ID at the polls. The vast majority of adults already have one. For those who don't, it is important that voter ID legislation allow any resident to obtain a state-issued ID for voting purposes free of charge. Hence, no financial burden is incurred. I struggle to think of any other type of burden the law imposes. A minimal amount of time would be required of the people who need to obtain an ID, but this imposes no more of an encumbrance on voting rights than being forced to wait in line for a few minutes at the polls on election day does. In both cases, the inconvenience is of such a slight nature that in no way does it rise to the level of a constitutional infringement. To be fair, proponents of voter ID laws rely on an unproven claim of their own — that cases of voter fraud are widespread. Democrats opposing voter ID laws are correct in noting that few charges are filed against people who fraudulently misrepresent themselves at the polls. Voting fraud, they say, is a bunch of hype with little statistical proof to back it up, and therefore, there's no compelling need to institute measures like voter ID laws. Yet the government need not be concerned with the exact amount of voting fraud, so long as it exists at some level. As I mentioned, a fraudulent voter cancels out — or disfranchises — a legitimate voter. If Indiana's voter ID law prevents only one fraudulent vote from being cast in 2008, it will have at least saved the electoral efficacy of one law-abiding voter. That's a fact. The counter argument is only speculation — that would-be voters wouldn't be able to vote because they're incapable of obtaining free photo identification. Then again, Badgers opposed to the ID laws need not worry. Given the partisan schism that pervades the issue, and the current makeup of the state Legislature, it will be some time before Wisconsin residents have any chance of seeing an Indiana-type law in effect here at home. Ryan Masse ([email protected]) is a first-year law student.