An Indiana statute, Senate Enrolled Act No. 483, requires citizens voting in person on election day, or casting a ballot in person at the office of the circuit court clerk prior to election day, to present photo identification issued by the government. Referred to as either the "Voter ID Law" or "SEA 483," the statute applies to in-person voting at both primary and general elections. The requirement does not apply to absentee ballots submitted by mail, and the statute contains an exception for persons living and voting in a state-licensed facility such as a nursing home. Ind. Code § 3-11-8-25.1(e) (2007). A voter who is indigent or has a religious objection to being photographed may cast a provisional ballot that will be counted only if she executes an appropriate affidavit before the circuit court clerk within 10 days following the election. Ind. Code §§ 3-11.7-5-1, 3-11.7-5-2.5(c) (2006). A voter who has photo identification but is unable to present that identification on election day may file a provisional ballot that will be counted if she brings her photo identification to the circuit county clerk's office within 10 days. Ind. Code § 3-11.7-5-2.5(b). No photo identification is required in order to register to vote, and the State offers free photo identification to qualified voters able to establish their residence and identity. Ind. Code § 9-24-16-10(b) (2007).
After Indiana enacted Senate Enrolled Act No. 483 (SEA 483) requiring citizens voting in person to present government-issued photo identification, petitioner voters and state political party filed separate suits challenging the law's constitutionality. The cases were consolidated. Respondent state officials were granted summary judgment which was affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Certiorari was granted.
Is the Indiana statute constitutional?
The State of Indiana identified several state interests that arguably justified the burdens that SEA 483 imposed on voters and potential voters. The first interest was election modernization. The Court noted both the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, 42 U.S.C.S. § 1973gg et seq., and the Help America Vote Act of 2002 contained provisions consistent with a state's choice to use government-issued photo identification as a relevant source of information concerning a citizen's eligibility to vote. The second interest was the risk of voter fraud. The Court held that there was no question about the legitimacy or importance of the State's interest in counting only the votes of eligible voters. It also held that inflated voter rolls provided a neutral and nondiscriminatory reason supporting the State's decision to require photo identification. While closely related to the State's interest in preventing voter fraud, public confidence in the integrity of the electoral process had independent significance, because it encouraged citizen participation in the democratic process. These interests were sufficient to outweigh the limited burden on voters' rights.