News| Law | Choose A Side: Should Photo IDs Be Required to Vote

News| Law | Choose A Side: Should Photo IDs Be Required to Vote

Published February 11, 2008

 Posted Jan. 27, 2006 – If lawmakers in Georgia get their way, residents who once used their social security card, birth certificate or utility bill as their ID to vote, will not have that option this year.

Legislation signed by Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue Wednesday would require residents to show up at the polls with a driver's license, military ID or state-issued identification card with a photo, The Associated Press reported.

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Why the voter IDs are good idea

"We don't believe that a utility bill pulled out of a trash should enable someone to cast a ballot," Perdue said. "It's a great step forward for the integrity of our voting process."

The bill still needs approval of the Justice Department, which OK'd a similar law last year. However, a federal judge slapped it down, saying it amounted to an unconstitutional poll tax. Most voters who didn't already have state-approved identification would have been forced to pay $35 to get one.

But that’s not the case this year, because the new bill makes the cards free.

Supporters of the bill say they’re all for it, as long as it doesn’t hinder poor or ill people from voting.

"Anything that cuts down on voter fraud is helpful," Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) said, according to an AP report. "The next challenge is to make sure this doesn't become a back-door poll tax where people who can't afford an ID are denied the chance to vote."

During the 1960s, those attempting to limit Blacks from exercising their voting rights often imposed a tax or forced voters to take a difficult written exam before they were allowed to cast their ballots.

Why voter IDs are a bad move

The bill has set off some emotional and racial debates with critics who argue that the measure deprives the poor, the elderly and minorities less likely to have driver's licenses. They charged that it's an effort by majority Republicans to make voting more difficult for Blacks, who tend to vote Democratic.

"This is not about voter identification but rather a voter constriction bill," said Sen. Ed Harbison (D-Ga.). "This ultimately will have a chilling effect."

Sen. David Jordan (D-Miss.) called the bill “unnecessary,” saying, “It weakens the driving force behind the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that so many African Americans fought for. It's like we'll be going back in time.”

While lawmakers say the bill is designed to prevent voter fraud, the NAACP believes it’s a ploy to keep the Democratic base of the poor and elderly Blacks from getting to the polls, and they want the bill put on hold.
 
"So we still think that this is an infringement," said Richard Shinhoster of the Savannah NAACP. "We're aware that Secretary of State Cathy Cox testified that this was not fraud. We have more errors occurring with absentee ballots in this area. So we question the need to fix something that's not broken."

Should Georgia residents be required to have photo IDs in order to vote?  Click “Discuss Now” to tell us what side you’re on?

Written by BET-Staff

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