Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Day 2008 - From the Polls in Indianapolis

"I want to vote! I want to vote!" The middle-aged African-American man had presented his Veterans Administration ID card in order to cast his ballot. Unfortunately, this federal ID did not include an expiration date; nor did it indicate an indefinite expiration date. Despite the fact that the voter was clearly the individual pictured on the photo ID, he would not be able to cast a regular ballot. Long minutes were spent by the poll workers and legal observers calling up to verify the fine points of the Indiana Voter ID law, and confirming that the voter would have to cast a provisional ballot.

The voter was understandably very frustrated - he indicated that he had used the same identification to vote in the last five years and that he had no other picture ID. After a long period during which there was some danger that the police might be called to intervene, the voter was sufficiently calmed down that he was able to cast his provisional ballot.

"I want to vote! I want to vote!" His cries and shouts were emblematic of the sentiment throughout the United States yesterday.

I spent Election Day as a legal observer for the Democratic Party at a polling station in Indianapolis. From the long line that greeted the poll workers at 5:30 (the polls opened at 6:00) through the ebbs and flows of citizens coming in to cast their ballots - so many for the first time, the historic nature of this election was clear. Finally, finally, after a so-long election campaign, people all over the country were participating in the often-messy and imperfect democratic process. The VA identification cards were only one glitch, other bumps and barriers to the participation of individual voters were resolved in a mostly bipartisan spirit of service to the democratic process.

I am inspired by the voters that I encountered and served yesterday and remain inspired by the overwhelming message that was delivered by voters throughout the country.


CaitlynA said...

It's hard to understand the relevance of an expiration date on the VA identification card to verifying identity to vote. It's not like the person loses their identify if the card expired (there is no expiration date because it doesn't expire - and why would it unless someone traveled back in time to keep the person from serving in the military). My own VA id card gives my name, photo, social security number and date of birth - nothing change over time except than I look a bit older. If I can prove who I was in 2001, what else is needed to prove who I am now?

Karen E. Bravo said...

The Indiana Voter ID law specifically requires an expiration date. To illustrate the "down the rabbit hole" formalism of the law, our instructions stated that a photo ID would be accepted if the ID include the reference "INDEF" in reference to an expiration date. Because this ID did not include such a reference it did not satisfy the language of the law. A second, disabled veteran faced the same issue at the precinct later in the day.

Diane Marie Amann said...

This relatively new Indiana law survived a facial challenge in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board (2008). The U.S. Supreme Court's opinion and other details about this litigation are available with details at