State laws requiring identification cards for voters have raised big issues that will carry into fall election season, as three key rulings are expected at the same time the presidential election heats up. And in one case that has Supreme Court ramifications, it might be a great-great-grandmother’s testimony that could settle the voter ID issue in a key swing state. Viviette Applewhite, 93, is the lead plaintiff in the ACLU’s lawsuit in Pennsylvania, in a case that could have long-term implications for stricter voter ID laws. Currently, there are pitched battles in Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Texas over photo IDs as a requirement to vote. The issue will get a lot of attention as state court rulings are issued later this summer in Minnesota and Pennsylvania. The Texas case was heard by the District of Columbia federal appeals court and a ruling there is also expected by Labor Day.
“This November, restrictive voter ID states will provide 127 electoral votes—nearly half of the 270 needed to win the presidency,” The Brennan Center for Justice at the New York Center for Law said in a report issued on July 18. “Therefore, the ability of eligible citizens without photo ID to obtain one could have a major influence on the outcome of the 2012 election.” The Brennan Center says as many as 500,000 voters could be affected at the polls, in just 10 states this November. It says 10 percent of voters, in those states, didn’t have government-issued photo IDs required by newer voter ID laws, including 25 percent of African-Americans and 18 percent of Americans over 65.
Pennsylvania is one of four states that falls into the category of “strict” photo identification requirements, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Georgia, Tennessee and Kansas also have narrow laws on polling IDs requiring a state-approved photo. Five other states require or request photo IDs at the polls: Florida, Michigan, Louisiana, South Dakota and Idaho.
Ohio, Virginia and Arizona fall into the category of “strict” non-photo ID states, where a bank statement or utility bill must be presented, in place of a government-issued photo ID.