The Supreme Court will soon rule on an Indiana law requiring citizens to present a government-issued photo ID every time they vote. The case is Crawford v. Marion County Election Board.

Supporters of the law claim that only noncitizens who should not be voting anyway would be affected. But there are many qualified people who will not have the requisite ID. The state will give you a free photo ID if you can produce a birth certificate or naturalization papers. But the catch is that to get a birth certificate in many places, you have to present a photo ID!

And nobody in Indiana or anywhere can come up with any recent case in which large numbers of ineligible people have actually tried to vote. Voter impersonation has virtually disappeared in recent elections. So what the Indiana law does is disenfranchise qualified voters to combat an imaginary problem.

I poll-watched for 20 years in Chicago. The Cook County Democratic “machine” used to be famous for electoral dirty tricks, some of which I witnessed.

But subsequently the machine found out that it was much easier and cheaper to fiddle with elections by stopping their opponents’ supporters from voting than by paying unqualified people to vote, which is a felony. To suppress your opposition’s vote, you just have to make it more difficult for whole demographic categories to cast their ballots. And it’s all perfectly legal.

So recently, the biggest problem has not been unqualified voters, but vote suppression. This is best done by knocking voters off the registration list wholesale.

The Chicago Board of Elections distributes thousands of cards to voters asking them to confirm their continued residence at that address, and if they do not, their names may be “purged” from the voting lists. This usually happens when the voter misses an election. It has a much greater impact on poor people, whose living arrangements may be more precarious and temporary.

Republicans have used vote suppression for a long time. The late Supreme Court chief justice William Rehnquist got his start in Arizona selectively challenging Latino and Black voters at the polls in the 1962 elections. We know about the shenanigans in Florida in 2000, wherein African American voters with no criminal records were suddenly found to be “felons” and purged en masse.

In Indiana, the method is to require an ID that is easier for wealthier, Republican voters to get than for poorer, minority voters who are more likely to be Democrats. Some people who don’t have a government photo ID handy on Election Day are supposed to be allowed to vote by provisional ballot and then go personally to the board of elections within 10 days to prove their eligibility. But if they can’t do this, their votes will not be counted.

Who is likely not to have a government-issued photo ID?

• Elderly people who do not drive, fly, or travel abroad. The Indiana law allows an exception for people over 65 who “attest that they have never been issued a birth certificate because their birth was never recorded with any State Office of Vital Statistics” (web site of Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita); they can present other documents. But this covers only a few.

• Physically handicapped people who cannot drive. A trip of 20 miles to the board of elections to validate a provisional ballot may be impossible for them.

• Poor people who cannot afford a car and so have no driver’s license, and do not have passports because they do not travel. The Indiana law allows for special consideration for the “indigent,” but that definition covers only a few.

• Young U.S. citizens over 18, and thus eligible to vote, who do not yet have drivers’ licenses or passports.

This will not just “inconvenience” a few people as Justice Anthony Kennedy commented, but will disenfranchise thousands, mostly Democratic voters.

But will it violate their rights? Oddly, the individual’s right to vote is not absolutely nailed down in the U.S. Constitution.

In a democracy, the Constitution would guarantee the right to vote for all citizens, and “vote suppression” would be election fraud just like voter impersonation. Then people like Rehnquist would be put into prison instead of on the Supreme Court.

Emile Schepers is an immigrant rights activist.