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Indiana turnout not affected by voter ID requirement

Indiana turnout not affected by voter ID requirement

INDIANAPOLIS | Indiana's nearly decade-long experiment requiring voters produce photo identification to obtain a ballot likely isn't to blame for the state's lackluster voter turnout.

In 2005, the Republican-controlled General Assembly approved, on party lines, one of the nation's first voter ID laws. Among its sponsors was state Sen. Connie Lawson, R-Danville, who now oversees Indiana elections as secretary of state.

The measure was signed by Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels and upheld as constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008, clearing the way for similar laws since enacted by 33 other states.

Comparing election turnout before and after Indiana required voters show ID to cast a ballot reveals the voter-ID law has not reduced turnout as critics of the law predicted.

Indiana voter turnout in the two presidential elections before mandatory voter ID was 56 percent in 2000 and 58 percent in 2004. Turnout in presidential elections after ID was required in Indiana jumped to 62 percent in 2008 and fell back to 58 percent in 2012.

Voter ID also appears to have had little negative effect on Indiana midterm election turnout.

Before ID, turnout was 44 percent in 1998 and 39 percent in 2002. After ID, turnout was 40 percent in 2006 and 41 percent in 2010.

At the same time, the suspicion that Democrats would be unduly harmed by the voter ID law -- the theory being low-income Hoosiers who vote Democratic are most likely not to possess an ID -- also hasn't come to pass.

Barack Obama won Indiana's 11 electoral votes in 2008, becoming the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry Indiana since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

In 2012, Democrat Joe Donnelly was elected to the U.S. Senate, Glenda Ritz defeated a well-financed Republican incumbent to become state superintendent of public instruction and John Gregg fell just 3 percent short of defeating Republican Mike Pence for Indiana governor, despite being outspent 2-to-1.

Republicans have built up supermajorities in the Indiana House and Senate since 2012, but lawmakers of both parties concede that has more to do with gerrymandered legislative districts drawn in 2011 to benefit Republican candidates than the state's voter-ID law.

View of law falls along party lines

What of the alleged fraud voter ID was intended to cure? In-person voter identity fraud always has been extremely rare, since it only results in one additional vote for a candidate and that's unlikely ever to swing an election.

A nationwide review of in-person voter fraud cases by Justin Levitt, a professor at California's Loyola University Law School, found out of more than 1 billion ballots cast in local, state and national elections between 2000 and 2014, just 31 instances of one person claiming to be someone else at a polling place. However, at least 3,000 people were turned away from the polls for lack of ID. 

The most prominent Indiana voter-fraud case since voter ID has been in effect, was Republican former Secretary of State Charlie White's registering to vote in 2010 at an address where he didn't live. White was not prevented by the ID requirement, since he voted as himself -- just using an illegal registration.

Hoosier lawmakers remain divided, mostly along party lines, on the utility of Indiana's voter ID law.

State Rep. Woody Burton, R-Whiteland, a member of the House Elections Committee, said showing ID is a normal part of life for Hoosiers in everything from banking to boarding an airplane, so there's nothing wrong with also requiring ID at a polling place.

"You always make reasons why you shouldn't do something if you're opposed to it, and I think the test of time is showing it's not that big of a deal," Burton said. "If voting was the only place where we needed a photo ID, I'd say, 'Wait a minute.' But tell me, what kind of transaction is conducted today without an ID?"

Burton said because Hoosiers can get an ID for voting purposes free at any Bureau of Motor Vehicles office, that removes the possibility low-income citizens are being denied the ability to vote. He'd like voter ID to be required nationwide.

"It eliminates the question about who is walking into the voting booth," Burton said.

State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, a member of the Senate Elections Committee, said Indiana should be doing all it can to encourage Hoosiers to vote, as she did as past president of a Porter County League of Women Voters chapter, and voter ID is a unneeded roadblock.

"Until somebody shows me that we have this huge fraud and abuse in the state of Indiana, I never understood the reason why we were trying to restrain access to voting instead of opening it up," Tallian said. "It makes you think that the only reason to do this is to make it more difficult for certain groups to vote."

She said older Hoosiers in particular have a hard time complying with the voter ID requirement if they no longer drive and have let their driver's licenses expire. Getting an ID usually requires tracking down a decades-old birth certificate, which can be especially difficult if it was issued in another state, Tallian said.

"It's just been totally unnecessary," she said.


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