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Georgia View: Showing Your ID

 

Like it or not, government-issued identification is increasingly a fact of life in most transactions of significance. We are asked to provide ID for the bank, grocery store, retailers (when using a credit card) and with every purchase of alcohol, cigarettes and many prescription pharmaceuticals. We need that same ID to board a commercial airline or train, rent a car and, in Georgia since the fall of 2007, to show up at the polls and vote.

Georgia’s voter ID requirement was signed into law in 2006, following similar legislative efforts in Alabama, Colorado, Montana and North and South Dakota.

The Georgia law was billed as a means of increasing ballot security and election result purity as well as combating voter fraud. Geor-gia’s law also withstood review by the U.S. De-partment of Justice and later was upheld following a court challenge alleging discrimination. 

Although voters overwhelmingly support the measure, critics contend that the requirement disproportionately and negatively impacts the elderly, poor and uneducated.

To respond to that concern, the Georgia law provides a free voter registration identification card to citizens requesting one. Former Gov. Sonny Perdue sent a mobile voter identification/registration bus out into the state in the wake of the law’s passage, offering free photo IDs to any voters concerned with being disenfranchised. Fewer than 1,000 in a state of roughly seven million citizens (at that time) took advantage of that offer.

After passage of a voter identification law in the state of South Carolina, one of the first voters to be challenged was then-South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford. Sanford arrived to vote via a South Carolina State Police car and was not carrying his driver’s license. The poll precinct captain declined the governor’s request for a ballot and sent Sanford to the Governor’s Mansion in Columbia to bring back his ID and later cast his ballot.

As of September 2011, 30 U.S. states require some form of photo or non-photo identification at the polls. Bills and laws are pending in 34 states intended to strengthen existing ballot security by requiring photo identification.

Although absentee balloting, one of the major areas of concern for ballot fraud, remains largely unregulated, voter fraud is real. Re-search by several independent news organizations determined that the dead still occasionally vote in Georgia, despite having no ID.

In 2000, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution conducted a multi-year review of voter registration records and voter fraud by cross-referencing Social Security numbers with citizens who had been reported deceased. Over the 20-year period reviewed, the AJC found the number of ballots cast by the dead was reasonably small, at 5,412; but a much larger number – 15,000 dead voters – remained on current and active voting rolls statewide, significantly increasing the potential for future errors and fraud. 

Call me crazy, but if you are alive and kicking and hand over your ID to a volunteer precinct worker who can easily verify that you are breathing, and with the help of the identification presented, also verify that you are you – at least this potential problem of ballot fraud is eliminated.

However, in mid-March the U.S. Depart-ment of Justice withheld its blessing of Texas’s voter ID law, and in 2011 the same Justice Department also sued the state of South Carolina and challenged its statute. In both cases, without citing actual complainants or injured parties, the Justice Department claims that these statutes potentially discriminate against minorities. 

Due to prior periods of racial or ethnic discrimination, Texas, South Carolina, Georgia and other southern states must submit all changes in election law to a process called pre-clearance to the U.S. Justice Department, under the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In each case, the onus is on the state to prove that any change in election law is not retrogressive or leading towards discrimination. Perhaps not surprisingly, no voter ID law challenges have been filed in states with a Democratic governor or majority in their legislative branch.

That leads some political wags to wonder if the colors more pertinent to potential discrimination during election years are red and blue, rather than black, white or other identified minorities.

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