Michigan Supreme Court Upholds Voter ID Law

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

A state law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls is constitutional, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

The court's five Republicans voted to uphold the law while two Democrats dissented. The issue has fiercely divided Democrats and Republicans for a decade.

The law was passed in 1996 and renewed in 2005, but it never took effect because former Attorney General Frank Kelley, a Democrat, ruled it violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, which guarantees citizens the right to vote.

Critics say the ID requirement is essentially a poll tax that would hit the poor, elderly, disabled and minorities hardest and keep them away from the polls. Supporters say it's needed to prevent election fraud.

The Michigan law requires voters to show photo ID to get a ballot, but it still allows those who don't have photo IDs to vote if they sign an affidavit swearing to their identity.

The high court's majority found Wednesday that the ID requirement isn't a poll tax because voters aren't required to incur the costs of an ID before voting.

The dissent, however, said the state has no compelling state interest in requiring ID because there is no evidence that voter fraud has existed in Michigan.

The high court had agreed to issue an advisory opinion after a request by former Republican House Speaker Craig DeRoche, who now is the minority leader because Democrats won control of the chamber in last year's election.

Several states have faced legal battles over laws requiring voters to show photo IDs. Judges have upheld voter ID laws in Arizona and Indiana but struck down Missouri's. Last month, the Georgia Supreme Court threw out a challenge to that state's voter ID law but sidestepped a decision on whether the requirement was constitutional.

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