It is the kind of thought that rarely passes the lips of a member of the federal judiciary: I was wrong. But there was Richard A. Posner, one of the most distinguished judges in the land and a member of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, saying he was mistaken in one of the most contentious issues in American politics and jurisprudence: laws that require people to show identification before they can vote. Proponents of voter identification laws, who tend to be Republican, say the measures are necessary to prevent fraud at the polls. Opponents, who tend to be Democrats, assert that the amount of fraud at polling places is tiny, and that the burdens of the laws are enough to suppress voting, especially among poor and minority Americans. One of the landmark cases in which such requirements were affirmed, Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, was decided at the Seventh Circuit in an opinion written by Judge Posner in 2007 and upheld by the Supreme Court in 2008.
In a new book, “Reflections on Judging,” Judge Posner, a prolific author who also teaches at the University of Chicago Law School, said, “I plead guilty to having written the majority opinion” in the case. He noted that the Indiana law in the Crawford case is “a type of law now widely regarded as a means of voter suppression rather than of fraud prevention.”
Judge Posner, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, extended his remarks in a video interview with The Huffington Post on Friday.
Asked whether the court had gotten its ruling wrong, Judge Posner responded: “Yes. Absolutely.” Back in 2007, he said, “there hadn’t been that much activity in the way of voter identification,” and “we weren’t really given strong indications that requiring additional voter identification would actually disenfranchise people entitled to vote.” The member of the three-judge panel who dissented from the majority decision, Terence T. Evans, “was right,” Judge Posner said.