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Our sacred civic transaction deserves protection, too

On Jan. 9, we presented our case to the U.S. Supreme Court concerning Indiana’s Voter ID law which requires a photo ID at the polls (Indiana Democratic Party v. Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita, Crawford v. Marion County Election Board).
The court quickly cut through the politics that brought the case there and asked profound questions on both sides of the issue. From the advocacy presented, it was evident that this common sense law was designed to prevent voter fraud and thereby improve the overall confidence in our election process.
Leading up to the law’s passage in 2005, the bipartisan Carter-Baker Commission, chaired by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker, determined that all states, including Indiana, experienced repeated acts of in-person voter fraud which should be addressed. Simultaneously, the National Crime Prevention Council reported that identity theft had become and continues to be the fastest growing crime in our nation, a crime that doesn’t stop at Indiana’s polling place door.
Just like we now take precautions to prevent ourselves from becoming victims of identity theft when making everyday transactions, simply showing one of several government-issued IDs before voting protects our most sacred civic transaction ‘ one person, one vote ‘ from being violated by those who would cheat to win what are becoming an ever-increasing number of close elections.
Because the potential existed for pervasive voter fraud and consequent disenfranchisement of legitimate voters, we implemented a comprehensive package of laws designed to improve the integrity of elections. This included a statewide voter registration system, absentee ballot reform, increased accessibility for disabled Hoosiers and our voter ID law. The new registration system catches duplicate and inactive names on the poll lists. The new absentee ballot law requires applicants to affirm under penalties of perjury that the information set forth in the application is true, including the applicant’s reason for requesting an absentee ballot. The reform also makes it a felony to electioneer in front of someone holding an absentee ballot, as well as possessing someone else’s ballot.
The Voter ID law requires that the Bureau of Motor Vehicles provide free photo identification to citizens who cannot afford one. In crafting the law, we recognized that some may not already possess or be able to easily acquire an ID, even if free, so there are some exceptions to producing the ID if you are willing to sign an affidavit in person and in front of a county election official. If you happen to forget your ID or need more time to get it, we will even hold up the results of the election for 10 whole days while you get it, just so your vote can be counted. That’s because we want your legitimate vote to count.
Indiana has conducted six successful elections since the law was enacted. Statistics show that voter turnout has increased in Indiana across all demographics since we started using IDs to vote. Both U.S. District Court Judge Sarah Evans Barker and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, in an opinion drafted by the esteemed Judge Posner, have held that the law is constitutional.
Indiana’s citizens overwhelmingly supported the law as a simple measure designed to prevent vote fraud and thereby protect the integrity of the vote. A poll of 1,003 Hoosiers in March 2005 found that 75 percent of us support requiring voters to show a government-issued photo ID. A year later, NBC News and the Wall Street Journal conducted a national survey and found that 81 percent of the country favored the requirement. Eighty-one percent! This support continues today and will only grow as Hoosiers and Americans work to keep the election process in their hands.
Indiana’s voter ID law is about accuracy through increased integrity. It’s a 21st century way to manage our election process that gives us confidence again in exercising our franchise, our most sacred civic transaction. As your Secretary of State, I will continue to demand integrity and accessibility in our elections and continue to restore voter confidence in the most powerful process ever achieved in the history of the world.