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Justice Is Blind, but Can She Vote?

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Posted on Jan 8, 2008

By Marie Cocco

WASHINGTON—The most revealing indicator of the state of our democracy is not to be found in the snowdrifts of New Hampshire but in the marbled chamber of the U.S. Supreme Court. Soon enough, we will discover whether the court under Chief Justice John Roberts will become a partisan tool in the national Republican drive to place constraints on voting that are targeted at those who tend to support Democrats.

    Not since the Supreme Court stopped the Florida presidential election recount in 2000 has a voting case been so significant, or so overflowing with partisan bile.

    On Wednesday, the justices will hear a challenge to Indiana’s strict law requiring photo identification in order for a voter to cast a ballot at the polls. The state claims the law is necessary to stop voter fraud. Yet no one—not Indiana officials, not the U.S. Justice Department, which has taken the state’s side in the dispute, nor any commission—has come up with a single case in the state’s history in which an impostor showed up and cast a vote. 

    Never mind. In 2005, Republicans who controlled the Indiana Legislature and the governor’s mansion imposed the toughest photo identification requirement in the nation. Not coincidentally, studies have repeatedly shown that those least likely to possess photo identification—most commonly a driver’s license—are African-Americans, the poor, the elderly and the disabled. In short, they are more likely to vote Democratic. Challengers to the law have identified at least two Indiana voters who have infirmities that make it impossible for them to drive, according to The New York Times. They were prevented from casting ballots and having them counted after years of voting without difficulty.

    Though the state set up a way for those without a license to obtain a photo ID, the process is complex, and eligible voters still can be denied. If, for example, a woman produces a birth certificate bearing her maiden name, rather than the married name under which she is registered to vote, she isn’t entitled to the identification. About 60 percent of those who have tried to get alternative IDs have been turned down, according to briefs filed with the Supreme Court.


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    To make their case before a court that is supposed to decide matters based on the facts and the law, Indiana and its supporters, including the Justice Department, invoke a compendium of allegations of this type of voter fraud or that. Facts seem to be notable for their absence. 

    The allegations they cite involve mostly news accounts of absentee ballot fraud, inaccurate registration rolls, and even tampering by election officials or poll workers. None of them would be prevented by requiring a photo ID from a voter. None involve an impostor who showed up and claimed to be someone else—the only type of fraud that requiring a photo ID would prevent.

    “They’re not only newspaper articles, but they’re generally newspaper articles about allegations that a photo ID law would not prevent,” said Justin Levitt, counsel to the Brennan Center for Justice, which has filed a friend-of-court brief challenging the Indiana requirement.

    The Justice Department is a party to this embarrassment, including in its brief an example of absentee ballot fraud in a mayoral primary. But the Indiana ID law has no bearing on absentee voters. The state still allows absentee ballots to be counted without a photo ID, on the basis of a signature checked against registration rolls. Still, the department argues that the mere “temptation” of voter fraud and the possibility of “undetected” wrongdoing is sufficient to support a law that constrains some legitimate voters from casting a ballot in person.

    If this sounds remarkably similar to arguments some Republican officials made against certain U.S. attorneys—that they failed to prosecute “voter fraud” cases that turned out to be figments of the partisan imagination—that’s because it is. The voter identification proposals fare best in states where Republicans control legislatures and hold the governor’s office. They have been upheld on the votes of Republican judges, and over the objection of Democratic ones.

    Partisan motives are supposed to have no part in the administration of free and fair elections. That is what the United States preaches abroad and what most Americans believed before Florida 2000. We can believe it again only if this Supreme Court rejects the hollow rhetoric of partisans and upholds the rights of all voters.

    Marie Cocco’s e-mail address is mariecocco(at) 

    © 2008, Washington Post Writers Group

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By Conservative Yankee, January 13, 2008 at 8:53 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

One of the big problems of this type of thinking is that it comes back to bite you.  I remember when Rose Bird was appointed Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court in 1977 by Governor Jerry Brown, she was anti death penalty, and believed strongly in “defendants rights” Death penalty proponants mounted a campaign against her, and muddied the waters to such a degree that no action by the court could happen without a aggressive public hearing. When the bird Court came up for re-election they were displaced by far right zealots. 

The Republicans unhappy that Roosevelt had been re-elected three times passed the 22nd amendment which barred Eisenhower, and Reagan from seeking third term. Since the 22nd amendment passed,over 50 years ago, only One Democrat could have benefited from a third term, but it could have benefited 3 Republicans…

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By driving bear, January 12, 2008 at 11:42 pm Link to this comment

If we applied your logic then the 4 Judges who were appointed by democratic presidents who voted in favor of Gore in 2000 would have to be removed also.
Face facts Gore LOST the 2000 election fair and square

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By purplewolf, January 9, 2008 at 1:13 pm Link to this comment

When I voted last November for the mayor of my city, they pulled that ID crap. So I was ready for them. I took my CCW ID instead, that threw the pole volunteer off, after all it was a picture ID so they had to accept it. Funny, they now want to try to enforce this, yet when a persons identity is stolen, well that’s no big deal in their eyes. And why just pick on the voters. What about all the other pathways along the way to being tallied can the votes be corrupted and have been in the past, especially with this administration. 

As for the corrupt SC, whatever Bush (repukelicans) wants to make it harder for the Democrats out there to vote, they are more than willing to set up this obstacle courses and make us jump through all kinds of hoops. After all they are Bush’s yes men.

Manni: 16 year terms are a bit to long even 8 years would be too long since the SC justices maintain a “yes man” mentality that seems to reign in the Bushco Inc.,especially for the very corrupt individuals. A life time job should never even be considered, as some of these jobs are now. What if you get a total incompetent, or someone who due to illness or age no longer is able to preform their jobs as they should be done What if they can’t understand what is going on, as some of the older people in government jobs in their 90’s who can no longer walk and have to be helped in every aspect of their daily care. No, lifetime appointments should not be legal, especially when it affects the lives of the people of America and how it runs.

This country needs a good house cleaning in many ways of how it is run, but making it harder on the voters should not be at the top of the list. The house of cards have all been stacked to one side, it’s time for it to collapse.

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By Maani, January 9, 2008 at 11:11 am Link to this comment


While I like the idea of SOME sort of “tracking” via politically-motivated decisions, I’m not sure yours would work.  Still, a good idea.

However, I would go further re terms.  There seems no need for them to have lifetime terms.  If the concern is that short terms would not allow them enough to time to consider a variety of cases, or end up being subject to replacement by a seriously partisan president, then perhaps they should be limited to 16-year terms.  This would allow their tenures to straddle at least two, and possibly three, presidents (depending on one-term and two-term presidencies), as well as randomizing which president gets to nominate new justices.

Another alternative - one being discussed quietly - is adding justices, since this is completely within legal bounds.  The danger of this, of course, is that each successive president might try to widen the court in order to serve his/her political agenda.

Still, SOMETHING has to be done.


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By SamSnedegar, January 9, 2008 at 10:14 am Link to this comment

“...tell us how you REALLY feel!...”

there is no question that the law is a strange creature which operates with what seems to be strange logic to the uninitiated, BUT…..

The SC should have to conform to an ethics code which goes something like this:

each ruling or vote should have attached to it a POLITICAL “verdict” wherein the action of the court is examined on the basis of what the various political factions WANT a SC ruling to be and do, and when or if ANY Justice has cast his vote for one faction or another more than ONE THIRD of the time, he should be removed from the court as biased. An ethics standard like that would have removed Thomas in six months, would remove Scalia immediately, would never have let Roberts on the court in the first place since his POLITICAL bias is KNOWN.

There are BOUND to be honest men who can rule on the LAW, not on politics, and that is what Souter has turned out to be for the most part. And as a matter of pure fact, ALL of the Republican justices involved in the Bush v Gore decision ought to have been impeached immediately and removed. That action (one time, they ruled) stamped the GOP members of the Court as CRIMINALS, not Justices. They entered the political arena and created law which led to the destruction of democracy in the USA.

A lifetime appointment without review or removal for bias is just wrong. They OUGHT to be above that kind of behavior, but since I can tell you 96 per cent of the time how EVERY one of them will vote on every issue which has political implications, the proof is in; the are not justices, they are GOP lap dogs who deliver GOP votes on important matters, and they MAKE UP law to support their awful decisions.

The fact that they do a pretty good job on matters of law which have few if any political overtones only serves to show what phony racketeers they are, because as soon as their masters jerk their chains, they wag their tails and become law breakers instead of law makers.

The fact that I can say this, and I can predict what these criminals will do better than 96 per cent of the time is all you need to know. If the SC were doing its job correctly and decently and LEGALLY, then I COULDN’T complain about their decisions and I couldn’t support any claim that I can predict their criminal behavior.

And it has nothing to do with FEELINGS; it has to do with FACTS. Ask any honest lawyer (contradiction in terms? I don’t think so…) about Bush v Gore and he will tell you it was a travesty of justice, not in any way to be confused with integrity or even opinion by the crooks who voted to install the moron as President of the United States.

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By alicecbrown, January 9, 2008 at 8:54 am Link to this comment

As a software engineer who teaches people how to throw an election through software (on those ‘electronic’, another Orwellian term for ‘computerized’...which bears much more emotional baggage…. machines);
I appreciate your comments.
Being raised in segregated Alabama, where the poll tax was king and blacks were asked complex Constitutional questions at registration time to keep them from voting, I see this as just another ‘poll tax bar’ to suppress the vote.

With the electoral college, a failing public educational system, and a voting process corrupted so horribly that those who vote may not get their votes counted, I see nohope for this ‘fragile experiment called democracy’, using deTocqueville’s terms.  We are an oligarchy, in a dictatorship by corporate America.

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By ocjim, January 9, 2008 at 8:47 am Link to this comment

We all know that Indiana is a conservative state. Much to the dismay of Hoosiers, immigrant population in some areas has soared. They are now aware of the perils of less conservative voters voting. They could even elect progressive candidates.

Based on past performance, there is a real danger that Bush’s packed court will once again vote on the side of Republicans, even while we stagger to get over the effects of a president appointed by that body.

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By Conservative Yankee, January 9, 2008 at 7:16 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“I SO MUCH miss my hero, Thurgood Marshall”

We have one thing in common!

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By cyrena, January 9, 2008 at 2:15 am Link to this comment

“...In case you might have wondered, I find the members of the SC, ALL OF THEM, pitiful and lacking one iota of decency or integrity….”

Sam Snedegar,

I sure can’t say that I blame you on this. But, it just makes me so very, very sad. It didn’t have to be this way ya know.

And…I SO MUCH miss my hero, Thurgood Marshall. You know he’s turning over in his grave. Then again, maybe not.

All I know is that he promised to ‘OUTLIVE THE BASTARDS’, and it just doesn’t seem fair that he didn’t.

Anyway, I still miss him, so you’ll just have to be his replacement. Thanks for keeping it real. They are a bunch of dirty bastard rotten crooks.

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By Outraged, January 9, 2008 at 1:39 am Link to this comment

Great article Marie.

This is but ONE of the issues.  I agree with other commenters who have concluded that the electronic voting machines are a sham.

PT: “The Republicans for years have sought a permanent Republican majority.  Their problem is how to eliminate what they see as the rabble from the political process.”

**This is absolutely what they desire.  We ARE their problem and I’ll include the Paul supporters in this (even though they are republican).

Yet there are still other issues.  Many states don’t allow convicted felons to vote even AFTER they have paid their debt to society.  Why not?  Why should we deny them this?  Haven’t they paid in full?  Are they not citizens?  Might they be apt to vote democrat as well?

There has been a constant flagrant attempt to disenfranchise democratic voters through the years.  If it’s not one thing it’s another.  If one were to conglomerate all the “missed” votes how many would that be?  What would we have been able to accomplish as a nation and who would have been most likely to have been elected?  Certainly not what we’ve got.

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By Maani, January 8, 2008 at 6:25 pm Link to this comment


Don’t mince words: tell us how you REALLY feel!  LOL.

As an aside, you are correct when you say, “Osama’s legions do not approach doing the kind of damage to our democracy that our own Supreme Court has already done.”  But I would add Bush/Cheney & Co. to this.

Because Bush & Co. used the attacks of 9/11 (whether real or “false flag”) as an excuse to play right into OBL’s hands by shredding the Constitution in the name of “safety and security.”  And both Congress and the SC (for the most part) played right along.  I’m sure OBL could not be happier watching our country devolve into proto-totalitarianism with increasingly restrained or eroded freedoms, civil liberties and privacy.  And, as you note, it is all happening internally via Bush & Co., Congress and the SC.

What a farce…


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By SamSnedegar, January 8, 2008 at 5:57 pm Link to this comment

You don’t expect a supremely corrupt court to deliver any verdict save a criminally corrupt one. This court will do just as they are told to do, and no more and no less. Count on it. It has been happening there for years, and you could predict EXACTLY what the votes would be and who would vote in what way.

To keep on pretending that these corrupt crooks are actual justices who care about the law is just stupid.

Oh, they find ways to vote “strangely” on relatively unimportant matters which don’t change anything much at all, but when push comes to shove, you and I both KNOW how these crooks will vote, so why pretend otherwise?

And don’t give me Roe . . . they don’t WANT to overturn Roe or they would have done so years ago. They need abortions available for themselves, their families, and more importantly, their bosses, and so they are not going to mess with that, but they surely will mess with any other politically motivated case and they will do as they are told to do, just like Bush does and Cheney does and the Republican members of congress do. If you want an independent decision based on fact, then you are covering the wrong group of people.

I don’t know of one single group of people in the world I hold in more contempt than I do this bunch of crooks, and Osama’s legions do not approach doing the kind of damage to our democracy that our own Supreme Court has already done.

In case you might have wondered, I find the members of the SC, ALL OF THEM, pitiful and lacking one iota of decency or integrity.

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By Maani, January 8, 2008 at 2:56 pm Link to this comment

I disagree with the premise.  The most revealing indicator of the state of our democracy - and without question the most dangerous to it - is the current status of the actual voting system.  Because it is through this system that the GOP is most likely to attempt election chicanery, as they have before.  That is, while the Voter ID issue is certainly important, the GOP doesn’t really NEED the Supreme Court (as rightward as it is tending), since all they need to do is steal the election through the (mostly electronic) voting machines.

Florida saw “hanging chads,” leading to the 2000 debacle that was, admittedly, decided by the Supreme Court.  However, GOP skullduggery in Ohio in 2004 (along with possible skullduggery in other states that year) didn’t require the help of the SC to steal the election.

What with the referendum that the GOP is trying to put through in California - i.e., changing the “winner take all” system to one in which the delegates are “split” by district, so that the GOP candidate would win at least SOME of those delegates in a general election (thus costing the likely Democratic popular winner to lose delegates) - and ongoing voting system problems in Colorado, Ohio, Florida, and other states, there is no lack of opportunity for the GOP to steal the 2008 election as well.

THIS is what must be watched this year as we get closer to the election.  Make no mistake about it: the system is in utter chaos, and is unlikely to be adequately fixed prior to the November elections.  If we are not diligent in keeping everyone’s feet to the fire on this (including the media), not only won’t any substantial repairs be made, but it will fade from view as an issue at all.


N.B.  In this regard, you might be interest in the following:

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By P. T., January 8, 2008 at 9:27 am Link to this comment

The Republicans for years have sought a permanent Republican majority.  Their problem is how to eliminate what they see as the rabble from the political process.

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By Conservative Yankee, January 8, 2008 at 9:25 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What is truly amazing is that US citizens are willing to forfeit just about any right or liberty for perceived “security”

Here in Maine one needs a social security number in order to obtain a driver’s license or a State issued ID.

All the information used to obtain these documents is “embedded” on the back of the license, and anyone with a “card scanner” (law enforcement, poll watchers, or your local walmarts) can get this information to use as they will.

Here in Maine they “need” all this information to “catch dead-beat dads” or so they claim. Men owing child support are not permitted driver’s licenses, registrations, sporting licenses, or State certifications (plumber, teacher, electrician, MD, tattooist, hair dresser, social worker, or any other State sanctioned occupation.)


What happened to “innocent until proven guilty” for those of us who owe nothing? What happened to our forth amendment right to keep “our personal papers” safe from indiscriminant government snooping? and what about the concept of “privilege” under which most states issue driver’s licenses and state Id’s?

The word “privilege” in the Constitution is a synonym for “right” we have the “privilege of habeas corpus” but privilege when used by states ‘granting” “license” is something entirely different.

So to take this one step further, if one needs the States permission and assent to obtain the mandated photo ID or “license’ does this by extension mean the individual vote is a gift from the people for whom we are voting?

This nation is going down the toilet!

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