When the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago issued a critical 2007 ruling defending the constitutionality of voter ID laws, Judge Richard Posner authored the decision.
The arguments Judge Posner made for upholding Indiana’s voter ID law framed some of the essential underpinnings for the 2008 determination of the US Supreme Court—in the case of Crawford v. Marion County Election Board—that has since served as a justification for the enactment of ever harsher laws in states across the country.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, “a total of 34 states have passed voter ID laws of some kind.” Not all of those laws have been implemented, with a number of them facing court challenges.
With the status of voting issues protections complicated by the Supreme Court’s June 2013, decision to invalidate key sections of the Voting Rights Act, the wrangling over voter ID laws in states such as North Carolina and Texas has only become more legally complex and confusing.
So it should count for something that Judge Posner now says that he was mistaken in his 2007 decision.
Indeed, the judge’s rethink ought to inspire a national rethink—about not just voter ID laws but the broader issue of voter rights.
In his new book, Reflections on Judging, Judge Posner writes, “I plead guilty to having written the majority opinion (affirmed by the Supreme Court) upholding Indiana’s requirement that prospective voters prove their identity with a photo ID—a law now widely regarded as a means of voter suppression rather than fraud prevention.”