Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Some students, low-income residents may be stripped of their rights

The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board is not much of a surprise. The decision upheld an Indiana law requiring voters to have photo IDs “issued by the United States or the state of Indiana” in order to vote. The Indiana state Legislature passed the law along strict partisan lines, and it was upheld by lower court judges with a recognized politically conservative leaning. The Supreme Court’s decision also fell along political lines — the six judges in the majority were nominated by Republican presidents, the three dissenters by Bill Clinton (except for Justice Souter).? However, it is not proper to accuse the justices of partisanship. Instead, I will focus on the ramifications of the Indiana law. The law, as it stands, makes it difficult for particular members of society to cast their vote, including the elderly, those living below the poverty level and college students. ?

In order to obtain a state-issued photo ID, applicants must provide a birth certificate and another form of identification, such as a lease or utility bill. This is a difficult task for the elderly, who may not have birth certificates or a way to access them, especially if they were born in another state. The homeless, who may have their birth certificate, will not have an address to put on the ID, let alone a lease or bill to prove their residence. In the case of the indigent, it may be economically impossible to obtain their certificate — Indiana requires a $3 to $12 processing fee. In rare cases, those who are religiously forbidden from having their photograph taken are barred from having a photo ID. The Supreme Court may find it acceptable for certain people to fall through the cracks and lose their right to vote, but I find it abhorrent and un-American. There is also one group of people whose situation was not addressed by the Supreme Court — the out-of-state student vote.

Indiana universities have one of the highest numbers of out-of-state students in the country, and the highest in Midwest. Out-of-state students spend more than half the year living in Indiana, and they meet all the requirements of residency in order to vote in the state. Unfortunately, thanks to the new voter ID law, the vast majority of the students will be unable to vote because most out-of-state students, strangely enough, do not hold Indiana ID cards or drivers’ licenses. Also, many students who are not from Indiana have little reason to change their state of origin on their ID. Students can lose scholarship awards from their home state or have problems with their health insurance if they are covered under their parents’ policies.

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Even fewer students own federal forms of identification, such as passports, and may elect to keep them at home. Even if an out-of-state student wanted to get an Indiana ID, the fact that a student’s residence often changes from year to year, (from the dorms to an apartment, for example), makes acquiring an Indiana ID impractical.

Never mind that the student vote can change the results of an election, as it did here in Wisconsin in 2000 and 2004. Never mind that the people most affected by the Supreme Court’s decision tend to vote Democratic, and the bill was written and passed solely by Republicans. Never mind that getting a state ID is time-consuming for students and often impossible for the elderly, poor or homeless. Indiana is protecting voters and the integrity of elections, and if a few thousand Democratic-leaning voters suddenly can’t cast a ballot on Election Day 2008, so be it. I understand and respect Indiana’s obligation to prevent voter fraud. I simply disagree with the overtly partisan tactics the state now employs to do so. Such schemes make me appreciate that I go to school in Wisconsin, where I can easily vote as an out-of-state student.

Wisconsin must respect the rights of its young voters who, through enrollment in schools across the state, consider Wisconsin their home and choose to exercise their right to vote here. The Indiana voter ID law is not an example to be followed.

Paul Axel ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in history and political science, and is deputy volunteer coordinator of UW-Madison College Democrats.

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