Introduction: The History of Voter ID Laws and the Story of Crawford v. Marion County Election Board

Election Law Stories (Douglas & Mazo, eds. 2016)

5 Pages Posted: 11 Mar 2016

See all articles by Joshua A. Douglas

Joshua A. Douglas

University of Kentucky - College of Law

Date Written: March 4, 2016


Voter ID has become one of the biggest hot-button issues in American politics. Everyone accepts that this issue is a major battleground. Yet where did the idea even come from? This chapter tells that story. (This submission contains only the introduction to the chapter. The full chapter is published in the book Election Law Stories).

The backstory of the Supreme Court’s 2008 decision in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, which upheld Indiana’s voter ID law, requires a deep dive into national and Indiana politics. It is the tale of Kit Bond, a U.S. Senator from Missouri, who was deeply concerned about the election results in his state in 2000 and claimed that Republican John Ashcroft lost his U.S. Senate election race only because of voting by dead people and dogs. In response, Bond slipped a voter ID measure into the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002. This proved to be the initial catalyst for states like Indiana to go even further with their own stricter photo ID requirements. It is the story of aspiring Indiana Republican politicians who regained control of the Governor’s mansion and both legislative houses and sought to enact a voting law that could help their side in future elections. It contains important figures such as Indiana Representative Bill Crawford, the longest-serving black state lawmaker in U.S. history, who stood up for Democrats and African-Americans to protest a law he believed would lead to disenfranchisement in the same way that poll taxes and literacy tests once did more explicitly. And it recounts the litigation path of this important case, culminating in the Supreme Court’s fractured decision upholding the law, which reverberated throughout the country as more and more states began passing voter ID requirements. This chapter tells that story through interviews with the key players in the debate and litigation, research into the history of the national and Indiana voter ID provisions, and detailed analysis of the opinions in Crawford.

Keywords: voter ID, election law, voting rights, photo ID, Crawford, Help America Vote Act

Suggested Citation

Douglas, Joshua, Introduction: The History of Voter ID Laws and the Story of Crawford v. Marion County Election Board (March 4, 2016). Election Law Stories (Douglas & Mazo, eds. 2016), Available at SSRN:

Joshua Douglas (Contact Author)

University of Kentucky - College of Law ( email )

620 S. Limestone Street
Lexington, KY 40506-0048
United States

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