An Atlanta judge on Tuesday struck down the latest version of Georgia’s controversial law requiring voters to show a photo ID, saying it violates the state constitution.
“The right to vote is a fundamental right of citizenship,” ruled State Superior Court Judge T. Jackson Bedford Jr.
Bedford said the new law “shifts the burden of voter registration verification from the state to the voter, and results in the disenfranchisement of an otherwise qualified voter.”
Georgia’s legislature passed a new law in 2006 requiring voters to show one of six forms of photo ID instead of 17 forms previously allowed, after a federal judge struck down a similar 2005 law as an unconstitutional form of a poll tax.
The main difference between the 2005 and 2006 laws is that voter ID cards can now be obtained for free, a change that sponsor Sen. Cecil Staton, R-Macon, who also pushed last year’s measure, hoped would pass constitutional muster.
But Bedford ruled that a provision allowing voters to cast a ballot without an ID but requiring they return within 48 hours with proper identification in order for their vote to be counted places “an additional condition on the right to vote not otherwise authorized by the Constitution.”
“Any attempt by the Legislature to require more than what is required by the express language of our Constitution cannot withstand judicial scrutiny,” he wrote.
Supporters of the photo ID law, including Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue, say it is needed to safeguard against voter fraud. Opponents, including Georgia’s Black Legislative Caucus, say it disenfranchises poor, elderly and minority voters who are less likely to have a driver’s license or other valid government-issued photo ID.
Former Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes challenged the law in the state case on behalf of two voters who claimed the law abridged their right to vote.
The state said it plans to appeal the ruling. According to the Associated Press, the case is likely to go to the Georgia Supreme Court before the Nov. 7 general election.
Seven states require a photo ID to vote. Indiana, New Mexico and Washington all passed voter ID laws in 2005.
The U.S. House of Representatives was set Wednesday to vote on a bill that would require voters in 2008 to present a valid photo ID in order to vote in national elections, a Republican-backed measure aimed at border security and against illegal immigration.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.