Bench Memos

Justice Stevens vs. Senator Obama

In today’s Wall Street Journal, John Fund has a very interesting article on how yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling on Indiana’s voter ID law (which I briefly discussed here) “reveal[s] a fundamental philosophical conflict between two perspectives rooted in the machine politics of Chicago”:  that of Justice Stevens, who, in a surprise, wrote the lead opinion rejecting the challenge to the law, and that of Barack Obama, who has vigorously opposed such laws.  A couple excerpts:

Both men have seen how the Daley machine has governed the city for so many years, with a mix of patronage, contract favoritism and, where necessary, voter fraud.  That fraud became nationally famous in 1960, when the late Mayor Richard J. Daley’s extraordinary efforts swung Illinois into John F. Kennedy’s column. In 1982, inspectors estimated as many as one in 10 ballots cast in Chicago during that year’s race for governor to be fraudulent for various reasons, including votes by the dead.  Mr. Stevens witnessed all of this as a lawyer, special counsel to a commission rooting out corruption in state government, and as a judge. On the Supreme Court, this experience has made him very mindful of these abuses.

So we have the irony of two liberal icons in sharp disagreement over yesterday’s Supreme Court decision. Justice Stevens, the real reformer, believes voter ID laws are justified to prevent fraud. Barack Obama, the faux reformer, hauls out discredited rhetoric that they disenfranchise voters. 

Ed Whelan — Ed Whelan is a leading commentator on nominations to the Supreme Court and the lower courts and on issues of constitutional law.

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