• Christopher Gunn

A new development for voter ID laws in America

The Supreme Court of the United States denied certiorari for a caseBrakebill v. Jaeger—that could have implications for the myriad voter identification laws in place across America, including our own here in Kansas.

The issue at the heart of Brakebill is that both the state government and tribal governments in North Dakota permit persons to use PO Box addresses on their ID cards. This is a particular challenge for members/residents of the state’s five reservations, where it is commonplace to not have a recognized physical address. However, changes passed during the 2017 legislative session now require ID cards, for purposes of voting, to have residential addresses.

Some have alleged that politics are behind the change, and others believe that this ruling will have a profound impact on this fall’s elections, where the race for United States senator has bee both embattled and close. In her dissent to the Court’s denial of certiorari, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg believes that the “risk of voter confusion appears severe”.

State officials have been working with tribal officials to find a solution, in hopes of not disenfranchising eligible voters come November. Amongst their proposed and approved measures is to, with the help of 911 services, use geolocation technology to prescribe physical addresses for homes of intending voters.

This brings up questions about voter identification laws in general. Since the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, voter identification laws in the United Sates are generally viewed as presumptively constitutional. As of this writing, 35 states have some form of voter identification law, ranging from simple requests (not requirement) to present ID (e.g.: Missouri, Iowa, Kentucky) to those states that require valid, government-issued ID cards with photographs (e.g.: Mississippi, Indiana, Wisconsin).

Kansas is in the latter group. First enacted as part of the Kansas SAFE Act in 2011, the law requires one of the following forms of identification is required to cast a ballot (per KSA 25-2908(h)):

— driver’s license issued by Kansas or by another state or district of the United States;

— state identification car issued by Kansas or by another state or district of the United States;

— a concealed-carry of handgun license issued by Kansas or a concealed-carry of handgun or weapon license issued by another state or district of the United States;

— a United States passport;

—an employee badge or identification document issued by a municipal, county, state, or federal government office agency;

— a military identification document issued by the United States;

— a student identification card issued by an accredited postsecondary institution of education in the state of Kansas;

— a public assistance identification car issued by a municipal, county, state, or federal government office or agency; or

— an identification card issued by an Indian tribe.

For two reasons, the Supreme Court’s denial of certiorari in the Brakebill case does not directly or immediately impact Kansas voters. First: Kansas law does not require IDs to include residential addresses for voter identification purposes. It only requires that such IDs be valid, and that they have a photograph of the person named therein.

Second: the Brakebill decision does not create binding precedent on courts across America. It effectively upholds a decision of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is only controlling for those states in that Circuit (Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota). This is not to say that another federal Circuit couldn’t agree with the 8th Circuit’s opinion in Brakebill—only that they are not bound to follow it.

If you believe your rights as a voter in Kansas have been violated, give Beck & Gunn Law Office a call, or send us an email. We’ll work hard to see that your civil rights are preserved and respected.

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