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Supreme Court case: Should you be able to vote without a photo ID?

Arguments over Indiana's voter-identification law, the most stringent in the US, will be heard Wednesday.

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The law was passed in recognition that Indiana is increasingly vulnerable to in-person election fraud, according to Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher. It was not enacted to undercut Democratic voters and candidates, he says.

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In his brief to the court, Mr. Fisher says those who sued to overturn the law lack legal standing to bring such a suit because none of them has been harmed by the law. There is no evidence, he adds, any individual has ever been prevented from voting because of the photo ID law.

"How onerous can the law be if a major political party, two seasoned candidates, and four substantial political interest groups cannot find even one person injured by it?" Fisher writes.

Opponents of the law counter that no one has ever been prosecuted for in-person voter fraud in Indiana, and there have been no reports of anyone posing as someone else while trying to vote in an Indiana election.

"What the legislators who passed the Photo ID Law did know was that it would burden voting by a group of eligible voters who lack the requisite identification because they do not drive and have no other regular need for state-issued photo ID," writes Washington lawyer Paul Smith, in his brief on behalf of the Indiana Democratic Party.

Mr. Smith says the law will discourage or deter low-income, minority, disabled, and senior-citizen voters from going to the polls. "Because these voters tend to support Democratic candidates, there was good reason to think that the suppression of turnout caused by the new law would primarily harm Democrats," Smith writes.

"The law was passed by a party-line vote shortly after the Republican Party won control of both houses of the state legislature as well as the governor's office," Smith writes.

Lawyers for Indiana say the opponents' case is based on speculation. A published study of Indiana voter turnout since the photo ID law took effect shows that voter turnout increased statewide by about 2 percent. They say the study did not find any reduction in voter turnout in counties with higher percentages of minority, poor, elderly, or less educated residents.

Opponents of the law say that the offer of a free ID card does not necessarily reduce the burden on certain potential voters. For those who do not drive, merely getting to the state ID office involves an investment in time and logistics. In addition, gathering the necessary paperwork can be problematic.

They cite the case of Theresa Clemente, who moved from Massachusetts to Indiana in 1991. Earlier in the case, she testified that she made three unsuccessful trips to the state motor-vehicles bureau to obtain a free photo ID card.

Ms. Clemente arrived with her Social Security card, her voter-registration card, her property tax bill, a utility bill, and a credit card. She was told she must produce a copy of her birth certificate.

But when she returned with the document, she was told she needed a certified copy of the birth certificate.

The certified birth certificate cost $28 and was mailed to her 14 days later. When she returned to the motor-vehicles bureau, she was told that because her birth certificate used only her maiden name she must also provide a certified copy of her marriage license.

"For many affluent Americans it may be hard to imagine life without a driver's license, a passport, or other government-issued photo ID," writes Smith in his brief. "The reality is that, across the country, about 12 percent of voting-age Americans lack a driver's license," he writes.