Friday, December 02, 2016

Strict Voter ID headed to Michigan.

I think the bill as written, if the article correctly summarizes the bill, has a constitutional problem.
A person who would have to pay a fee or has a religious objection to being photographed can vote provisionally via affidavit, but they have to go to the county clerk's office to do the affidavit, amking an extra trip to vote. That's administratively more convenient for the county, because they don't have to stock the affidavits at each precinct and train staff. But generally, administrative convenience isn't enough justification for such a burden on fundamental voting rights.

Harman v Forssenius finds that under the 24th Amendment, it's not just that the state can't impose poll taxes, it's also that the state can't erect barriers to voting by adding unneeded layers of paperwork.

In Frank v Walker, the Wisconsin Supreme Court found that requiring voters to buy documents, such a birth certificate, would raise poll tax issues and be unconstitutional, so they construed the statute to avoid that. Here, Michigan would be making some people make two trips to vote instead of one.
Indiana lets the voter fill out the affidavit at the polling place.
(The affidavit option does not cover my case; I'm not claiming to be religious or indigent, I'm just unwilling to show ID.)
It seems to me Michigan would be creating a barrier that raises a 24th Amendment claim.

Similarly there are First Amendment and equal protection problems. Assuming the Anderson test is used, a court would have to balance the burden of the extra trip against the convenience to the state.
Courts in North Dakota, Wisconsin, and North Carolina, at least, have been skeptical of such arrangments. I am unclear on the current status of Applewhite, the PA case.

My prediction is that the litigation costs for Michigan to go this route could be better spent on combating voter fraud via traditional police work - warrants, probable cause, rewards, informants,and that sort of thing. Unless the goal is just voter supression.

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