Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage, the chairman of the House State Affairs Committee, reportedly plans to introduce a voter photo ID requirement in the Alaska Legislature. He says this photo ID law isn’t based on the so-called “model statute” developed by the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council, a national organization that promotes conservative model legislation. Even though Lynn is a member of ALEC.
It’s all about equal protection. If you have a photo ID, you get to vote; if you don’t, you SOL.
The Alaska Supreme Court has a pretty well-developed set of standards for equal protection tests. In Ross v. State, Department of Revenue, the court recently reaffirmed that test. Let’s see how it works on Rep. Lynn’s proposed voter photo ID law. [Note to lawyers reading this: yes, we are being a bit simplistic.] The court has held:
We have adopted a flexible “sliding scale” test for reviewing equal protection claims. First, we determine what weight should be afforded the constitutional interest impaired by the challenged enactment. The nature of this interest is the most important variable in fixing the appropriate level of review. Second, we examine the purposes served by a challenged statute. Depending on the level of review determined, the state may be required to show only that its objectives were legitimate, at the low end of the continuum, or, at the high end of the scale, that the legislation was motivated by a compelling state interest. Third, an evaluation of the state’s interest in the particular means employed to further its goals must be undertaken.
The right being impaired is the right to vote. It’s at or near the top of the most important rights. There can’t really be any serious argument about it.
The purposes served by the proposed statute? To defer fraud. But wait a minute, has there been an actual criminal case involving voter fraud? Director Elections Gail Fenumiai could only think of one, the illegal alien in Anchorage who used fake ID to get a job as an Anchorage policeman. Of course, he had a photo ID, so the law wouldn’t work on the only case of genuine voter fraud we know about. So this law wouldn’t address an existing problem; there is no existing problem. It purports to address a possible future problem. That might exist. Someday. Possibly. That not a very compelling state interest. WC suspects the court might even think that the goals and objectives were illegitimate.
Which leaves an analysis of the means chosen by the state to achieve its purported goal. And that would be to deny folks the right to exercise the right to vote because they don’t have a photo ID. At a time when, on the available evidence, the existing system is working just fine, thank you.
Impairment of a critical constitutional right for a dubious reason with an onerous requirement?
The Alaska Supreme Court will go blow through the Honorable Bob Lynn’s voter ID law like a hot ball bearing goes through runny butter. It doesn’t pass the red face test, let alone constitutional scrutiny.
And, just for icing, remember that a few Florida Republicans were silly enough to admit the real purpose of Florida’s burdensome voter ID law: inhibiting Democratic turnout.
Maybe we can just not have this fight? Maybe the Alaska Legislature can address real issues, rather than unconstitutional attempts to cling to power?
Nah. Too much to hope.