Sunday, October 02, 2005

Georgia voter ID law under attack

Several advocacy groups have filed a lawsuit against Georgia seeking to stay or overturn their new law requiring people to show a government-issued picture ID when showing up to vote. The crux of the suit is that the ID required by the new law would cost $20 and therefore constitutes a "poll tax". Here's former President Jimmy Carter on Georgia's law:

::::::::"Georgia passed an absolutely obnoxious law," said former President Jimmy Carter, who lives in the Peach State. "It was specifically designed to prevent old people, poor people and African-Americans from voting," he said.::::::::

Fascinating when you consider that one of the recommendations Carter's own commission on voting reform made was to require a picture ID to vote. Of course, Carter thinks the government ought to be providing those for free. Ah, but wait a moment. Georgia's law has a provision in it specifically directing the government to provide an ID for free to the poor. As for Carter's rhetoric that this law was specifically designed to prevent people from voting, I have a recommendation for him: get a grip, Jimmy. This law was specifically designed to do exactly what Carter's commission said was a good idea - require a picture ID when people come to the polls to vote.

The critics have 2 complaints about the ID process. First, they say the law's definition of "poor" is vague. That may be a valid observation, I don't yet know. That is hardly a compelling reason to completely remove the law. If their concern is that the law's definition is too narrow, then they should be proposing the wording to expand it to appropriate levels, not suggesting that the entire law be done away with. I would also advance the notion that it's not unreasonable to think that people who can afford the $20 fee should be required to pay it. Note, too, that a Georgia driver's license is the #1 form of ID the law requests so anyone that's a licensed driver is already in possession of the required ID form. The law's supporters make the point that the number of licensed drivers in the state exceeds the number of registered voters by a fair margin so that indicates that it's apathy rather than a lack of acceptable ID that's keeping people from the polls.

The second complaint deals with the issue of accessibility in actually getting one of those ID's. Apparently (and this is just amazing to me, personally) only 56 of 159 counties in Georgia have a facility for issuing ID's. Atlanta - the capital of the state the largest city in Georgia by far - has precisely zero such facilities within its city limits. People living in the city must actually travel to the suburbs to get their driver's licenses done. Well, I've got to hand it to the opponents of this law on this one. That is a ridiculous situation and one that Georgia should be fixing, today. There should be a facility in every county to provide ID cards, even if that's just a digital camera and a card laminator in the County Clerk's office. With the technology available today, there's no excuse for not having such a thing.

None of that provides a reasonable basis for overturning that part of Georgia's voting law. Proper ID with a picture on it is no burden to bear to see that elections are conducted fairly. The other states in the Union should proceed to require them as well if they don't already.