A commission examining national voting practices issued a report to Congress yesterday recommending a uniform photo-identification standard, but opponents say its stringency would disenfranchise millions of voters who might lack the necessary documents to obtain the IDs.
The standard of identification recommended by the Commission on Federal Election Reform is essentially the same as those established by the recently passed federal Real ID Act, which outlines strict rules and procedures for the issuance of driver’s licenses by the states.
“The Real ID is a logical vehicle because the National Voter Registration Act established a connection between obtaining a driver’s license and registering to vote,” said the report drafted by the commission, which is chaired by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III. “The Real ID card adds two critical elements for voting—proof of citizenship and verification by using the full Social Security number.”
Mr. Carter and Mr. Baker yesterday defended the recommendations, saying photo-identification already is required to board airplanes, cash checks and enter federal buildings.
But Commissioner Spencer Overton, a George Washington University election law professor, dissented.
“The recommendation will exclude millions of Americans, and the disproportionate numbers of citizens who will be excluded are people of color,” he said.
Carlos Campos and James Salzer, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sept. 20
Voting and civil rights groups launched a legal assault Monday on the state’s requirement that Georgians show a government-issued photo ID at the polls—a law they call the most restrictive of its kind in the country.
A federal lawsuit filed on behalf of two African-American voters, the American Civil Liberties Union, NAACP, League of Women Voters, black legislators and others calls the new law a “poll tax” that will rob black, elderly and rural people of their right to vote.
Supporters of the new law condemned the suit, arguing that the law will eliminate the likelihood of fraud at the polls. House Speaker Glenn Richardson (R-Hiram) called it a “ludicrous lawsuit.”
“This lawsuit is nothing more than liberal special interests using unconscionable scare tactics to frighten Georgia voters,” Richardson said.
While long expected, the suit raises the stakes of a debate that has raged since last winter’s session of the Legislature. The suit won’t affect today’s special elections in Cobb County and elsewhere, but opponents hope a judge throws out the law before elections being held in November in many Georgia cities.
“There is no place for a voter-suppression law,” said Tisha Tallman, regional counsel for the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and an attorney for the plaintiffs. “The case against House Bill 244 is strong, and we intend to prevail in court.”