Friday, October 28, 2005


A Victory for Voting Rights

Voter ID Law Is Overturned

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.... 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. [...] 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.
I've been calling this law a "21st-century poll tax" ever since I heard of it. It's gratifying that a federal judge sees it the same way.
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