Georgia View: Surge Or Purge?
In 2005, Georgia became the sixth state, now one of 33, that has passed laws requiring government-issued identification to prove identity when voting. Final federal court approval to begin implementing the law followed in 2007. Our current White House and Justice Department, during requisite pre-clearance reviews of all changes to voting law in southern states, have more recently challenged in court the Voter I.D. requirements in Texas and South Carolina, with reviews and legal battles pending in several other states.
MSNBC and other left-leaning news outlets routinely shriek in horror, referencing the potential millions of voters who may be disenfranchised. However, our Georgia law – considered one of the toughest in the country – allows a wide range of government-issued identification to be utilized for receiving a free Voter I.D. identification card from your local board of elections. I know, because I have one.
Accepted forms of identification include military I.D., your U.S. passport, Social Security card (with another form of photo I.D.) and even expired, suspended or revoked Georgia driver’s licenses. Georgia’s voter I.D. statute long pre-dates recent federal mandates, which have made renewing an existing drivers license challenging for many Georgians.
On Labor Day this year, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported its own detailed investigation of voter turnout and the impact of Georgia’s 2006 voter identification law. Among black voters in Georgia, turnout surged by 44 percent from 2006 to 2010. Turnout among Hispanic voters increased by 67 percent during the same period. By contrast, the increase among white voters in Georgia from 2006 to 2010 was only 12 percent.
Although minority voter participation did decline in the 2010 mid-term elections, a significantly higher percentage of Georgia’s black voters still voted in 2010 than turned out in 2006, meaning that President Barack Obama’s draw as a candidate in 2008 was not the only reason for the significant increase in minority voting.
The Elections Division of the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office has multiple election investigations under way, but it cannot currently identify a case involving attempted voter fraud, where a voter was caught pretending to be someone he or she was not. Since 2008, 1,586 Georgia voters without I.D. cast provisional ballots, then did not return later with the required I.D. There are 658 voters who cast provisional ballots, then returned later with I.D. so that their votes were counted.
During the same time frame, 13.6 million ballots were cast, making the provisional ballots a micro-fraction of the total and highly unlikely to change the outcome of any election.
On the flip side, there has yet to be a single Georgia voter since 2007 who has showed up at the polls and been unable to vote, for the lack of voter identification, and subsequently filed a complaint. Without a claim of disenfranchisement, there is no “injured party.”
A challenge to Indiana’s voter I.D. statute was settled in 2008 by the U.S. Supreme Court. That ruling in part affirmed that Indiana had no obligation to establish the extent or frequency of voter fraud to enact a statute designed and intended to minimize that fraud.
Convicted felons lose their right to vote until completion of their sentence; this data update occurs automatically between the Georgia Department of Corrections and the Secretary of State Voter Registration database.
The State Office of Vital Records systematically and periodically updates the voter registration records of citizens who are deceased, but neither of these systems is instantaneous, allowing the possibility of the criminal or the dead still showing up on election day. The I.D. requirement keeps that window of opportunity closed a bit tighter.
Finally, as hotly contested elections in our divided nation are not likely to vanish anytime soon, I implore the ruling parties in each state to get equally serious about cracking down on potential voter fraud in absentee voting. More than 30 percent of votes are now cast in this manner.
And though there have yet to be any massive and proven cases of manipulating electronic voting and election returns, we should also be investing in ballot security and system upgrades to prevent hackers from hijacking a local mayoral or governor’s race. If it hasn’t yet happened, it is only a matter of time.