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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

North Carolina Students Use 26th Amendment to Challenge Voter ID Law

I recently heard about this story in the New York Times detailing a lawsuit challenging North Carolina's statute requiring people to provide photo identification when voting. The Times describes North Carolina's law:

Under the North Carolina law passed last year, the period for early voting was shortened and same-day registration was eliminated. Beginning in 2016, voters will need to show photo identification, and student ID cards, including those issued by state universities, will not be acceptable. In most instances, neither will an out-of-state driver’s license. 
The law also eliminated a program in which teenagers filled out their voter-registration forms early and were automatically registered when they turned 18.

The link to the story contained the words in the subtitle: "College Students Claim Voter ID Laws Discriminate Based on Age." I was initially skeptical, since age is not a suspect classification and laws that discriminate based on age are not likely to be overturned for being discriminatory.

But my skepticism was based on doctrine that stems from the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. While the plaintiffs challenging North Carolina's Voter ID law are arguing that the law violates the Equal Protection Clause, they are also taking a novel approach based on the 26th Amendment. From the Times:

[L]awyers for seven college students and three voter-registration advocates are making the novel constitutional argument that the law violates the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18 from 21. The amendment also declares that the right to vote “shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of age.” 
There has never been a case like it, and if the students succeed, it will open another front in what has become a highly partisan battle over voting rights.
I'm not sure whether the students will succeed with this argument. Given the lack of established case law or standards governing 26th Amendment lawsuits, I don't think anybody knows how the court will treat this theory. It will be interesting to see how the court handles the argument, and whether similar lawsuits will be filed in other states.

Also, Ann Coulter isn't going to be happy about this.

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