September 09, 2007
Lawsuit against updated Georgia voter ID law dismissed

If the Texas Legislature is going to be as hell-bent on passing a frivolous voter ID law the next time it gets together, here's a template for one that will survive judicial review.

A federal judge who once struck down Georgia's voter identification law has approved a revised version, dismissing a lawsuit aimed at stopping the state from enforcing the statute.

Barring an appeal, U.S. District Judge Harold Murphy's decision Thursday means the law will be in effect for local special elections Sept. 18. Early voting begins Monday.

Murphy praised officials' "exceptional efforts to contact voters who potentially lacked a valid form of photo ID."

He said the opponents, who argued that elderly and poor voters were particularly at risk, have not found voters who have been harmed by the law.

"Plaintiffs are hard-pressed to show that voters in Georgia, in general, are not aware of the photo ID requirement," Murphy wrote in a 159-page ruling.

Also, because people have the option to vote absentee without photo identification, they are not barred from participating in elections, Murphy said.


Voters who show up at the polls without a valid ID card will be allowed to cast a provisional ballot, which would be counted if they go to the county registrar's office with ID within two days.

The federal challenge was filed two years ago. Opponents argued that the 2005 law violated the Georgia Constitution and amounted to a poll tax, and Murphy agreed.

The Legislature came back with another version of the law making voter ID cards, one of several ways to meet the statute's requirements, free and available statewide.

If I'm reading this correctly, what the Georgia legislature did to correct the problems with the 2005 law that got it thrown out in court were 1) provide a photo ID that would meet the requirements of the law to anyone who wanted one, and 2) actively seek out people who were eligible voters but who might not already possess such an ID - a crosscheck of voter registration rolls with the state driver's license database would do some of that. If the Texas Lege were to add such features to any future voter ID legislation, I'd still think it was a bad idea designed to solve a nonexistent problem, but at least I could begin to consider the pleas that the Republicans who are pushing it don't actually intend to disenfranchise anyone.

Now of course, a truly sincere effort to ensure that every eligible voter has an acceptable form of ID would cost millions of dollars and take months to complete. It would also still leave some legitimate voters out in the cold, and since it would be a change of habit for so many people, would result in a needlessly large number of provisional ballots. For those reasons, even if I had good reason to believe that the state Republican leadership cared about making a sincere effort to leave no voter behind, I'd still oppose this legislation for being an unnecessary restriction on voting rights as well as a waste of time and money. But hey, the path to success is there if they want to take it. I'm not holding my breath.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 09, 2007 to National news