Two States Question the Impact of Strict Voter ID Laws

In most states, a citizen may register and vote after establishing four critical points: citizenship, age, residency, and, in some cases, felony conviction. However, at least eight states exceed these basic requirements by also requiring voters to present valid photo ID at the polls on Election Day. Now, with the midterm elections approaching, the necessity, efficiency, and even constitutionality of voter ID laws are being questioned once again.

This week, two states—one with an established (though controversial) voter ID law, and another that expects to officially debut its law in November—are met with questions about the laws’ impact on voters.

While Georgia’s high court ponders the constitutionality of its “oft-challenged” 2005 photo voter ID law, Idaho officials are reportedly focusing on the potentially harmful logistical issues of the state’s new law before its official debut in the November election.

Idaho’s voter ID procedure was tested last month in several county elections, but not without a hitch for voters, according to theAssociated Press Monday.

“It did slow things down a little bit,” said Deputy Secretary of State Tim Hurst to the AP.

The new law, which was modeled after South Dakota's voter ID law, requires poll workers to verify a voter's identity with picture ID. If the voter has no picture ID, he or she is supposed to be permitted to sign an affidavit; however, in its first year of implementation, South Dakota voters complained about being turned away rather than being offered the option of signing an affidavit.

Idaho officials say they are working to avoid this problem with public announcements and billboards detailing the new law.

“It’s always a concern that people waiting in long lines will get disgruntled and walk away…The counties are concerned about it too,” he said. “That’s why we’re trying to get the word out.”

But the concerns of voting rights advocate go beyond the issue of efficiency, since democracy can only be efficient if it is equally accessible.

“The primary concern is that the impact of photo ID requirements are particularly felt by elderly people, low-income people and often racial minorities,” said Project Vote Director of Advocacy Estelle Rogers in the AP report.

A 2006 survey by the Brennan Center for Justice found that as many as 21 million Americans were without valid photo identification that included current address or married name. That, coupled with the fact that there are about eight illegal votes out of millions per year, it is difficult even to justify the long lines and confusion on Election Day, let alone the potential disenfranchisement of eligible voters.

On Tuesday, Georgia’s highest court heard “a new type of legal challenge brought by the law's opponents,” according to theAssociated Press.

“Earlier efforts to block the law were filed in federal court and contended it violated voters' rights under the U.S. Constitution. But the latest case brought by the Democratic Party of Georgia claims the requirement violates the Georgia Constitution.”

In particular, the state Democratic Party asserts that Georgia residents have an “absolute right” to vote if they meet the qualifications expressed in the Georgia Constitution and have not been disqualified for the reasons set forth by the Constitution,specifically felony conviction relating to moral turpitude or the judicial determination of mental incompetence.

“Nowhere in the Georgia Constitution is the right to vote premised on the possession of an approved form of photo ID,” theappellant brief states.

Tags: election reform, Georgia, Idaho, voter id (all tags)

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