Georgia's New Voter ID Law Will Unfairly Burden Thousands of Black, Poor and Elderly Voters

On January 11th, Bruce S. Gordon, President and CEO, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) said that Georgia's recently passed voter identification legislation places an unfair burden on poor, elderly and African American voters and reduces their access to the polls.

Gordon has asked Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue and Glen Richardson, Speaker of the State House of Representatives, to distance themselves from the legislation, Senate Bill 84. "The legislation violates both the state and national constitutions," said Gordon.

"The effect of this insidious legislation is to require several hundred thousand voters who went to their local registrar's office to vote, to in essence, go back to the office a second time to re-register for a photo identification card," said Gordon. "This would be a major burden for the poor and the elderly who do not own a car or have a driver's license."

A federal court last year struck down a similar voter identification law. U.S. District Judge Harold Murphy said the Georgia photo ID requirement "imposes a poll tax." In a decision that was upheld by a federal appeals court, Murphy said:

"The photo ID requirement unduly burdens the right of many properly registered Georgia voters to vote, is a poll tax, and has the likely effect of causing many of those voters to forego voting or of precluding those voters from voting at the polls. Because the right to vote is a fundamental right, removing the undue burdens on that right imposed by the photo ID requirement serves the public interest. This factor therefore counsels in favor of granting plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction."

Although proponents of the new voter legislation have argued that voters can vote via absentee ballot without producing photo identification, Gordon said, "The NAACP agrees with Murphy that it is unrealistic to expect that most of the voters who lack photo identification will take advantage of the opportunity to vote using an absentee ballot."

The federal court decision came after the NAACP Georgia State Conference of Branches filed a lawsuit against state and local election officials asking that the previous law be declared "unconstitutional, null and void."

In his letter to Gov. Perdue, Gordon asked for a personal meeting on this issue and requested that he issue a statement distancing his office from the legislation.

Gordon said the law will also create a large logistical problem requiring 159 counties in the state to buy and learn to use photographic equipment "almost overnight" in order for voters to cast their ballot in the July primary elections.

Finally, Gordon said: " The rush to enact legislation to fix a problem that doesn't exist under the guise of ensuring "integrity in elections" makes those involved seem more interested in suppressing the vote at the 2006 Elections than reforming the electoral system."

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