Bruce S. Gordon, President & CEO, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), said today that a Federal Court decision blocking Georgia from enforcing a state law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls "vindicates the decision to file a Federal lawsuit that charged the state law with violating the 1965 Voting Rights Act."
"It's good that the Federal Court sees fit to protect citizens from an abuse of power by the Georgia state government," said Gordon. "It's ironic that while our soldiers are fighting and dying for the right of Iraq citizens to vote in a free election, Georgia has a law that would in effect deny United States citizens the right to vote." The NAACP and other civil rights groups who filed suit to challenge Georgia House Bill 244 as a violation of state and federal constitutions, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the 1964 Civil Rights Act."
U.S. District Judge Harold Murphy said the Georgia photo ID requirement "imposes a poll tax." In his decision released today, 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."
Murphy said the requirement for photo identification would "most likely to prevent Georgia's elderly, poor and African-American voters from voting." The judge said: "For those citizens, the character and magnitude of their injury – the loss of their right to vote – is undeniably demoralizing and extreme."
Recent census data shows that African Americans in Georgia are nearly five times less likely than whites to have access to a motor vehicle, thus would be less likely to have a photo ID. Moreover, there are only 56 locations in Georgia that issue the primary identification required by the new law. Many of Georgia's citizens in rural areas who do not have accessible transportation may need to travel through two counties to reach a Department of Motor Vehicle Services (DMVS) office.
Georgia recently eliminated the only two DMVS locations inside the City of Atlanta, the state capital where a substantial number of African Americans live. A person living Atlanta must now travel 10-15 miles to access a DMVS office.
Today's ruling could prevent the use of the photo ID law during the municipal elections November 8. The lawsuit filed by the NAACP and other voting rights advocates charges that in addition to violating the Voting Rights Act, the state law violates the Fourteenth Amendment because it treats voters unequally and violates the Georgia Constitution because it creates an entirely new set of voting qualifications beyond those specified in the State Constitution.
Nineteen states require voters to show identification, but only five request photo ID, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Those states – Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina and South Dakota – allow voters without a photo ID to use other forms of identification or sign an affidavit of identity.
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