People For the American Way Foundation

Leading Conservative Judge Says He Was Wrong to Uphold Voter ID Law

Richard Posner, one of the nation's most prominent and influential conservative appellate judges, now admits he was wrong to uphold a strict photo ID law in 2007. His opinion for the Seventh Circuit was later upheld by the Roberts Court in the now-notorious Crawford case. The New York Times reports on Posner's recognition that voter ID laws are used not to protect electoral integrity but to weaken it by disenfranchising certain citizens:

In a new book, 'Reflections on Judging,' Judge Posner, a prolific author who also teaches at the University of Chicago Law School, said, 'I plead guilty to having written the majority opinion' in the case. He noted that the Indiana law in the Crawford case is 'a type of law now widely regarded as a means of voter suppression rather than of fraud prevention.'

The Times also quotes from an interview Judge Posner gave to the Huffington Post:

Asked whether the court had gotten its ruling wrong, Judge Posner responded: 'Yes. Absolutely.' Back in 2007, he said, 'there hadn't been that much activity in the way of voter identification,' and 'we weren't really given strong indications that requiring additional voter identification would actually disenfranchise people entitled to vote.' The member of the three-judge panel who dissented from the majority decision, Terence T. Evans, 'was right,' Judge Posner said.

The dissent by Judge Evans, who died in 2011, began, 'Let's not beat around the bush: The Indiana voter photo ID law is a not-too-thinly-veiled attempt to discourage election-day turnout by certain folks believed to skew Democratic.'

No, let's not beat around the bush. Judge Posner's recognition that voter ID laws are being used to suppress the vote is extremely important. It isn't 'just liberals' who are saying that. The right wing war against voting has become so aggressive and so increasingly transparent that a respected conservative jurist who once upheld voter ID laws is now condemning them as unconstitutional.

This makes it much harder for conservative supporters of such laws to be taken seriously when they claim their only interest is protecting the integrity of the vote. (Although one would think that would already be the case, given the Pennsylvania House Speaker's acknowledgement that he pushed a strict photo ID law in order to help Mitt Romney win the state.)


Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, Richard Posner, voter ID, voter suppression