Washington Law Review

Comment

Reexamining Crawford: Poll Worker Error as a Burden on Voters

March 01, 2014 | 89 Wash. L. Rev. 175

Abstract:  American elections are administered by poll workers—individuals who are recruited and trained by states and localities for the particular task of helping people vote on Election Day. Several layers of law govern poll workers, including federal constitutional law, federal statutory law, state constitutional law, state statutory law, and local law. Among these laws are voter photo identification laws, or voter ID laws. Nineteen states have passed voter ID laws in the last ten years. With some variation, these laws require a person to present photo identification before he or she is allowed to vote. In 2008, the United States Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s voter identification law as constitutional against a facial challenge, holding that the law’s burden on the right to vote was reasonable in light of states’ interest in administering elections. In many states with a voter ID law, it is the responsibility of poll workers to check and verify a voter’s identification before the voter may cast a regular ballot. Poll workers are charged with this critical task despite the fact that they are not professional election administration staff, often lack experience and training, and—as a result—may be prone to error. This Comment explores how complicated laws—such as voter ID laws— exacerbate poll worker error in election administration. It argues that courts should consider this error when faced with constitutional challenges to such laws. Specifically, courts should consider poll worker error as a burden on voters, and therefore should apply heightened constitutional scrutiny to state laws—such as voter ID laws—that exacerbate poll worker error.

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