succumbing to peer pressure

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

What I learned today

Went to an information forum regarding the latest version of Georgia's voter ID bill. Bottom line - it's still a bad idea. A quick history: last year the GA legislature passed a bill requiring a state-issued photo ID to be allowed to vote. For individuals who don't have a license or other acceptable photo ID, one could be purchased from the state for anywhere from $15 to $30. This is, you know, unconstitutional. But that didn't stop Perdue from signing it into law. The League of Women Voters filed a lawsuit and got an injunction preventing the law from being enforced during the past election. The new legislative session started up last week...and the repubs brought out a slightly modified version, SB 84.

First, it's poorly and inconsistently written. For example, since GA Tech and GA State are state schools, a school ID from one of these colleges is sufficient ID to allow someone to vote. My school ID, from Emory, is not. Nor is an ID from Morehouse or Spelman or Agnes Scott.

Second, there are currently 17 acceptable forms of ID for a voter to present. This bill knocks that down to 6. Admittedly, some of the currently acceptable forms seem a little lax to me too, like a utility bill. But surely there are ways to address that that are better than this.

Third, there are currently 56 approved locations for obtaining the newly proposed voter IDs. There are 159 counties in the state of Georgia. The chances that a poor resident living in rural Georgia with shaky access to transportation can get to one of these locations is...oh, very slim. In the ruling resulting in the injunction last year the judge stated that it wasn't just the monetary fee that met the requirements of a poll tax, but also the inconvenience and extra step required of voters.

The ACLU lawyer on the panel also pointed out that the Supreme Court has said that there cannot be a 'conclusive presumption' preventing someone from voting, and in the case of this bill, enforcing it would mean the conclusive presumption that someone without a state-issued photo ID is not who they claim to be, regardless of their ability to prove so using other methods.

Lastly, state representative Sue Burmeister was recently quoted as saying that black people only vote when they're paid. The panel moderator this evening, who is black, said she wants either an apology or her check!

Oh, really lastly, the thing that really sold it for me is that it just can't be convincingly argued that this bill is an honest attempt to reduce voter fraud first and foremost. That may be a secondary affect, but it's far too easy to point out disparities in the bill that will disproportionately affect minorities and the poor. And there are far too many potentially productive things that could be done that aren't. For example, Georgia keeps records of who uses what forms of ID when they vote, but throughout the past year that this bill (and it's various versions) have been pending, the legislature has made no effort to analyze that data, which would clearly enable them to not only determine which forms of IDs are used most often and by which groups, but also to link forms of ID with alleged fraud. Oh, wait, there have no documented cases of voter fraud in the state of Georgia for in-person voting. They've all been absentee. oops.

(and yes, I posted a little while ago that this new bill seemed reasonable. I was wrong.) (See Mr. President? That's how it's done.)


Blogger Shelby said...

The panel moderator should only expect a check if she's from Augusta; Burmeister only said black people in her district didn't vote unless they were paid. :-)

The 56-locations-to-159-counties thing was, I believe, "corrected" in SB84 versus HB144. The new law would require all district voting offices to have the ability to issue some kind of acceptable ID. However, according to Rep. Morgan (D-Cobb), a number of districts have said there's no way they could be ready to implement this by the next election.

And finally, it should be pointed out that both new laws actually expand the absentee ballot -- at least by extending the voting period, and I believe there was another provision added making it easier to justify obtaining one but I'm not sure. Real fraud protection there, right???

But you should really go listen to Rep. Morgan say it herself. :-)

12:32 PM  

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