Persily On Indiana Voter-ID Case and NH Primaries

Press contact:
James O’Neill 212-854-1584  Cell: 646-596-2935
January 9, 2008 (NEW YORK) - Columbia Law School Professor Nathaniel Persily, an expert on election law, is available to discuss the oral arguments today before the Supreme Court in an Indiana case that explores whether voter-identification laws act as an unfair barrier to prevent low-income people and minorities from voting. The case is Crawford v. Marion County Election Board.
Prof. Persily can also speak on the results of yesterday’s New Hampshire presidential primary, and why all the Democratic polls incorrectly projected that Barack Obama would win.
Nathaniel Persily, Professor of Law, can be reached on his cell at 917-570-3223 or at [email protected].
``The Crawford case has been billed as the most significant election law case since Bush v. Gore, in part because the issue - whether a Republican backed photo ID requirement for voting is an unconstitutional method for preventing alleged election fraud - is seen as having a great potential effect on voter turnout and elections,’’ Persily said.
``The chief difficulty in this case is the absence of empirical evidence either suggesting the type of fraud the ID requirement would allegedly prevent or the widespread disenfranchisement of some groups that supporters fear it would cause,’’ Persily said.  ``The Court will need to answer the question whether a measure supported by only one party that will admittedly make voting more difficult for some unknown number of people assumed to members of the other party satisfies the Constitutional guarantee of a fundamental right to vote.’’
Persily said existing empirical evidence suggests that:
  • Old people, racial minorities, and the poor are less likely to possess photo ID
  • Groups of people without ID also happen to be less likely to vote in general.
  • We should not expect ID laws to affect voter turnout because most voters have ID and because voters without ID will still be able to cast a provisional ballot.
  • Voter impersonation fraud is extremely rare -- and Indiana has never prosecuted anyone for it.
  • The greatest effect, if any, of such laws will be felt among populations that have not voted until recently, which, if the 2008 primaries are any indicator, might be a growing group.
Nathaniel Persily, an expert on voting rights, election law, constitutional law, and American politics, has been a court-appointed expert for redistricting cases in Georgia, Maryland and New York, and has served as an expert witness or outside counsel in similar cases in California and Florida. He has an upcoming book on the Supreme Court.
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