Supreme Court to Americans: In Your Face!


6-3 opinion on photo-ID law opens door for more privacy intrusions

Monday’s Supreme Court decision upholding a harshly restrictive photo-ID requirement for voting deals a severe blow to people who value privacy and individuality. That’s all of us, by the way.

But it’s future generations that will really pay the price, because they may grow up in a country whose governments and corporations will routinely track their movements, activities, likes, dislikes, opinions, resentments — just about everything they say or do.

Monday’s 6-3 court decision upholds a misbegotten Indiana law requiring voters to present photo IDs.

But it opens the door wider for more sophisticated uses of photo IDs, such as facial biometrics for tracking your movements and buying habits. That’s all in the near future, in part thanks to RFID tags (which I wrote about earlier in an item about Vegas casinos).

My take is that once photo IDs are going to required for voting (and many states will now try to pass laws modeled after Indiana’s), the government and corporations will have all sorts of tools to play with. The court decision blesses such attempts because Indiana’s law was particularly intrusive.

So go to the Electronic Privacy Information Center for info on the long-range danger of RFID chips implanted into drivers licenses.

We’ll have no more privacy than cows with ID tags in their ears.

For now, the story is the Indiana law and the court ruling. Start your reading not with the decision but with these three paragraphs on the dissent, courtesy of Linda Greenhouse‘s story in the New York Times, which is a useful but typically establishmentarian take on this issue:

In a dissenting opinion, Justice David H. Souter said that for those on whom the law had an impact, the burden was “serious” and the state had failed to justify it. Like the Virginia poll tax the court struck down 42 years ago, he said, “the onus of the Indiana law is illegitimate just because it correlates with no state interest so well as it does with the object of deterring poorer residents from exercising the franchise.” The other dissenters were Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.

Six states in addition to Indiana — Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Michigan, and South Dakota — now require voters to provide photo identification before casting a ballot. Bills are pending in two dozen other states, although they are not likely to pass this year in more than a handful, due to short legislative sessions and Democratic opposition.

The Indiana law, adopted by the Republican-controlled legislature in 2005 without a single Democratic vote, is regarded as the strictest in the country. It requires a voter to present a photograph as part of an unexpired document issued either by Indiana or the federal government, a requirement that in most cases can be satisfied only by a current driver’s license or a passport. The state’s motor vehicle agency provides a free photo ID card for people who do not drive, but obtaining it requires a “primary document” like an original birth certificate or a passport.

But that’s all you need from here. The Jurist site tells the story quickly and has all the pertinent links for you curious ones out there.

Here’s how Jurist lays it out:

The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Monday let stand Indiana’s controversial voter identification statute, which requires voters to present photo identification as a prerequisite to voting. The decision comes in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, where the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upheld the law in 2007, ruling that it does not put an undue burden on the right to vote and therefore does not violate the US Constitution.

Supporters of the law have said that voter identification can be used to deter voter fraud, but its critics have argued that the legislation makes it difficult for minorities, the elderly and the impoverished to participate in elections.

Click for the majority opinion and David Souter‘s dissent. You’ll find other links at the Jurist link listed earlier.

EPIC filed its own brief against the Indiana law (for all the good it did), and so did Rick Hasen, whose Election Law blog archive on the topic is useful. (Hasen’s brief is here.)

It’s already tough enough to vote in this country. Why in the world do we have elections on Tuesdays, instead of the weekends, when so many other countries conduct votes? That’s to keep the riff-raff — those who don’t have the pull or the money to get time off from their bosses nor the education to know their options — from voting.

Democrats in Congress and various state legislatures will try to fight off attempts by those various states to enact laws similar to Indiana’s. Supposedly, those laws won’t be passed in time to affect this November’s vote, but don’t count on it.

We’re devolving to the days of anti-democratic, racist gimmicks like the poll tax (read this 1948 piece by courageous Southern editor Hodding Carter — the father of Jimmy Carter‘s former flunky), and a photo ID for voting is just one more step toward a national ID. And that’s one step closer to a national ID with RFID chips.

You will be tracked (assuming you’re not already tracked).