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Justices Appear Divided Over Indiana Voter ID Law

The Supreme Court appeared reluctant Wednesday to strike down the nation's strictest requirement that voters show photo identification at the polls. The case involves a challenge to an Indiana voter ID law that opponents say unfairly burdens poor and minority voters.

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  • RAY SUAREZ:

    While the New Hampshire primary may help to determine who voters will get to choose at the polls next November, today's case at the high court may determine how voters in several states will cast their ballots.

  • At issue:

    Can states require voters to show a photo ID before they're allowed to vote?

    NewsHour regular Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal was at the court for the arguments, and she joins us now.

    Let's go back to the beginning. Many states have voter ID regulations. How did this case get to the court?

  • MARCIA COYLE, National Law Journal:

    Well, about 20 states have voter ID regulations on the books, and they generally followed the problems we saw in the 2000 presidential election between President Bush and Al Gore.

    Indiana, in 2005, its legislature enacted a law that requires a citizen to present a government-issued photo identification at the ballot box before casting a ballot. The Indiana Democratic Party, along with some candidates, as well as some citizens, brought two lawsuits challenging that law.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Were any of the petitioners people who had actually been denied an opportunity to vote?

  • MARCIA COYLE:

    Well, there are petitioners, according to the attorneys for the Indiana Democratic Party and the challengers, there were people who were deterred from voting.

    And you have to understand what the law does, basically. If you show up at the ballot box without these government-issued IDs, you can cast what they call a provisional ballot. That ballot is not counted right away.

    You have roughly 10 days to either get a valid government ID or go to the county seat and file an affidavit claiming either you're too poor to be able to afford the fees that would enable you to get this ID, or you have a religious objection to being photographed.

    So there were people who felt that– or who did not return with a government ID, and their votes were not counted.