Michigan Supreme Court Hears Voter ID Arguments

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The state Supreme Court weighed Monday whether Michigan can require voters to show photo identification at the polls, an issue that has divided Democrats and Republicans for a decade.

At stake is the constitutionality of a 1996 state law, recently renewed by the state House, requiring voters to show photo ID to get a ballot. The law says that if voters don't have ID, they can sign an affidavit and then vote.

Former Attorney General Frank Kelley, a Democrat, ruled nine years ago that requiring photo ID violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, which guarantees U.S. citizens the right to vote.

Critics say the requirement would keep poor people, non-drivers and others away from the polls. But supporters, including Republicans, say it's needed to prevent election fraud.

The high court has agreed to issue an advisory opinion sought by the Republican-controlled House, meaning both sides of the issue were argued by the attorney general's office on Monday.

Assistant Attorney General Susan Leffler said requiring photo ID is a minimal burden for voters, who already are asked to show ID in their everyday lives. She argued that making those without an ID sign an affidavit is not too much to ask to help prevent fraud and ensure confidence in the electoral process.

But Assistant Attorney General Ron Robinson said the law could harm 350,000 registered voters who don't have a driver's license or state-issued ID card. The law, which he called a "wolf in sheep's clothing," would subject voters without an ID to a challenge, Robinson said.