Rep. Ellison urged the court to strike down an Indiana law that requires people to have a photo ID to vote, arguing it disenfranchises black voters. Last month, he introduced legislation that would ban the requirement in federal elections.
Ellison filed the brief with the support of all of the members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.
"In America, our right to vote is a sacred right, and a moral obligation," Ellison said in a statement Thursday. "We must do everything that encourages, fosters and facilitates everyone's ability to exercise that right. While photo IDs seem harmless, they are in fact the modern day poll tax."
In the brief, Ellison argues that the tax violates the 24th Amendment's ban on poll or other taxes to vote.
"The requirement is unconstitutional not only because voters must initially spend money to obtain the requisite government-issued photo ID or obtain related documentation, but also because voters who wish to qualify as 'indigent' under the statute must make a separate trip to a county office and 'affirm' their economic status before being allowed to vote," the filing states. "This is an unconstitutional burden on the fundamental right to vote."
The court will hear arguments in the case next year. Indiana defends the law as a way to combat voter fraud. It was enacted in 2005, and upheld by a federal judge and by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. The law is being challenged by the state Democratic Party, a county Democratic committee and two Democratic office holders, as well as organizations including the NAACP.
Courts have upheld voter ID laws in Arizona, Michigan and Georgia, but struck down a Missouri law.
Ellison has also sponsored legislation to require states to have same-day voter registration for federal elections, as a way to encourage voter participation.