Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

The Georgia Voter ID law

with 4 comments

Some problems with the Georgia law as proposed (story from 10/28/05) are listed below the fold, and emphasized with boldface:

In a case that some have called a showdown over voting rights, a U.S. appeals court yesterday upheld an injunction barring the state of Georgia from enforcing a law requiring citizens to get government-issued photo identification in order to vote.

The ruling allows thousands of Georgians who do not have government-issued identification, such as driver’s licenses and passports, to vote in the Nov. 8 municipal elections without obtaining a special digital identification card, which costs $20 for five years. In prior elections, Georgians could use any one of 17 types of identification that show the person’s name and address, including a driver’s license, utility bill, bank statement or a paycheck, to gain access to a voting booth.

Last week, when issuing the injunction, U.S. District Judge Harold L. Murphy likened the law to a Jim Crow-era poll tax that required residents, most of them black, to pay back taxes before voting. He said the law appeared to violate the Constitution for that reason. In the 2004 election, about 150,000 Georgians voted without producing government-issued identification.

“Obviously, we’re very pleased with the decision,” said Daniel Levitas of the American Civil Liberties Union, which joined the NAACP and other groups in a federal lawsuit against the Georgia law. “It’s especially timely to see the federal courts step in to protect the precious rights of voters. This decision confirms our contention that the Georgia ID law poses a constitutional hurdle to the right to vote.”

State officials say they will challenge the decision by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that was handed down by Judges Frank M. Hull, Stanley F. Birch Jr. and Joel F. Dubina. Birch and Dubina were appointed by President George H. W. Bush, and Hull was named to the appellate court by President Bill Clinton. The case is being watched nationally as Republicans and Democrats in many states battle over who will be allowed on the voter rolls.

The Georgia ID law has been controversial from the day it was submitted in March. Conservative lawmakers said it was needed to limit elections fraud. Liberal lawmakers said that argument was a smokescreen masking another intent: to maintain Republican power in the state by diluting the minority vote, which typically goes to Democrats.

Because Georgia falls under the Voting Rights Act, the Justice Department had to approve the change in state law. It did so in August, prompting charges from outside and inside the department that it was backing away from strong enforcement of the Voting Rights Act.

Under the Georgia law, residents would need to produce original birth certificates and other documents to get the new digital identification card. The cards could only be obtained at Department of Motor Vehicles offices.

But critics say that many potential voters do not have the required documents and that some could not afford the $20 processing fee for identification.

State officials promised to provide free identification to anyone who swore under oath that they were indigent. But the law provided no definition of what constituted indigence in the state of Georgia, opening the possibility for possible perjury charges, activists said.

Liberal critics compiled statistics showing that far more white residents owned cars than African Americans. The law, they argued, gave an unfair advantage to white people while placing a burden on those who are black.

On top of that, the state recently reorganized the Department of Motor Vehicles, paring down the number of offices. After the reorganization, there were no DMV offices in Atlanta, a city with a wide black majority. The closest station is at least nine miles away. Fewer than 60 of the state’s 159 counties have DMV offices.

State officials countered that they were providing a single vehicle, known as the GLOW bus, to traverse the state, providing applications and licenses to those with the proper documents. Critics expressed disbelief that one bus could accommodate the needs of so many potential voters.

Black lawmakers railed against the law. At times, they openly wept during the debates. Nevertheless, it passed both the House and Senate in near-lightning speed. The governor signed it in April.

“We did it because we thought it was the . . . thing to do to clean up Georgia election law,” said Sen. William Stephens, a Republican from Cherokee County. He cited a report in the Atlanta Journal Constitution newspaper saying that more than 5,000 dead people voted in the eight elections before 2000.

Stephens said another Journal Constitution report stated that a poll revealed 80 percent of Georgians supported the voter ID law.

But Secretary of State Cathy Cox, a Democrat who oversees the election process, said there has not been a proven case of voter fraud in the state in nearly a decade.

As for the poll, Rep. Tyrone Brooks, president of the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials, said respondents, especially those who are black, were not informed of the law’s impact.

“You talk to African Americans, and they will tell you that this is a hardship,” Brooks said.

Written by Leisureguy

9 October 2007 at 11:17 am

Posted in Election, Government

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4 Responses

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  1. With most reporting, this utter silliness. Cathy Cox is not even the Secretary of State. Karen Handel is our Secretary of State. Oh, I now see that this article is TWO YEARS OLD and we now have MASSIVE CHANGES in the law. The law and story are so out of date that it now seems silly to debate the point. This is not even the law that has been placed on hold. The simple fact is that the Democrats are fighting any law that requires ID to vote. It is a shame that they wish to protect their fraud machine more than protecting citizen’s votes. The MAJORITY of GEORGIANS demand this law. So for all of you that harp on Pot laws and popular support, here is a case where 8 of 10 voters demand this rule.

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    jweaver

    9 October 2007 at 1:05 pm

  2. AP:
    Georgia Voter ID Law Passes Test

    By SHANNON McCAFFREY – Sep 18, 2007

    ATLANTA (AP) — Local elections in 23 counties ran without a hitch on Tuesday in the biggest test yet of the state’s new law requiring a photo ID to cast a ballot, election officials said.

    “I didn’t notice anything different,” said Jennifer Rivers of South Fulton, which is voting on whether to incorporate. “I think people are used to having to show ID to do most anything these days. I know I am.”

    Secretary of State Karen Handel said Georgia poll workers have been trained to allow those without photo IDs to cast a provisional ballot. They would then have 48 hours to present a valid ID in order for their vote to count.

    “We want as many people who are eligible to vote to be able to vote,” Handel said.

    Opponents of the voter ID law warn that hundreds of thousands people lack the photo ID needed to vote and will stay away from the polls. Most experts say the true test of the law will come in Georgia’s Feb. 5 presidential primary, when turnout is expected to be far higher.

    Lawyers and legislators in Georgia have been battling over voter ID for several years now.

    Opponents claim the photo ID law will disenfranchise minorities, the poor and the elderly who don’t have a driver’s license or other valid government-issued photo. Supporters say the law is needed to prevent voter fraud and preserve the integrity of the electoral system.

    The most recent twist came when a federal judge this month cleared the way for the law to take effect. U.S. District Court Judge Harold Murphy had found an earlier version of the law unconstitutional, saying it amounted to a poll tax. The Legislature addressed his complaints in a subsequent version, which made photo IDs free to anyone who needed them.

    Handel’s office reported that 3,585 state photo ID cards have been issued to Georgians who presumably lacked the needed photo identification, 522 of them since the state launched an education effort on Aug. 1 to let voters know about the new requirement.

    Lawyers who challenged the law are deciding whether to appeal to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

    A separate state lawsuit also failed. The Georgia Supreme Court tossed out a challenge filed by former Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes.

    The voter ID law had been used three times in Richmond and Gwinnett counties in 2005 before it was blocked by the courts.

    Georgia’s is one of several voter ID laws passed in recent years across the country. Laws in Arizona, Indiana and Michigan have survived court challenges.

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    jweaver

    9 October 2007 at 1:06 pm

  3. Interesting. I didn’t find the above article (the one you quoted) in the Google search. Wish I had. I did draw attention to the age of the article I quoted, precisely because I feared it may be out of date. But it’s interesting that the first attempt at the law was so clearly aimed at disenfranchising voters (only at DMV offices, no DMV office in Atlanta, one bus to cover the entire state, 100 counties with no DMV office). I’m glad that they altered the law, but that first version shows clearly the intent, I fear.

    And nonetheless, the instances of polling-place voter fraud remains trivial.

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    LeisureGuy

    9 October 2007 at 2:04 pm

  4. The story was wrong then as well. There were no DMV offices because they were in Kroger grocery stores. The press was just way off and one sided.

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    jweaver

    10 October 2007 at 9:50 am


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