Monday, April 28, 2008

Voter ID. The Supreme Court today rejected a facial challenge* to an Indiana law requiring voters to show a photo ID before voting.

The Court split 3-3-3, with 2 groups of 3 rejecting the facial challenge: Justice Stevens announced the judgment of the Court and delivered an opinion in which Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy joined. Justice Scalia filed an opinion concurring in the judgment in which Justices Thomas and Alito joined. Justice Souter filed a dissenting opinion in which Justice Ginsburg joined. Justice Breyer also filed a dissenting opinion.

Why did Stevens not join up with the liberal trio -- in many instances he is on their side or may even be to the "left" of some of these justices.

John Paul Stevens came to the attention of the public at large as his days as an attorney -- a Republican attorney -- fighting political corruption in Chicago. While he has strong sympathies for the liberal causes, he also knows how these causes can be undermined by political corruption. He is willing to give good government types the tools they need to fight corruption. At the same time, he is willing to give those who see that a corrupt power can misuse this type of statute the tools they need to challenge the application of the law.

As an aside, this shows very good judgment by the Chief to assign the writing of the opinion to Stevens.

In all, a good decision.

* A facial challenge means that the statute is unconstitutional on its face. This is opposed to what will certainly come next: an "as applied" challenge - meaning the statute, as applied, is unconstitutional.