[JURIST] Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker [official website] on Monday filed an emergency appeal with the Georgia Supreme Court [official website] on behalf of Governor Sonny Perdue [official website], asking the court to overturn a lower court judge's Friday decision to issue a temporary restraining order [JURIST report] blocking the implementation of a law requiring Georgia voters to produce photo identification cards. In a ruling issued just before Georgia's July 18 primary elections, Judge Melvin K. Westmoreland of the Fulton County Superior Court [official website] held that the law [SB 84 materials] violates the state constitution [text] by placing an undue burden on the fundamental right to vote and that it would require a state constitutional amendment to legally take effect.
Westmoreland blocked the Republican-backed voter ID law [JURIST news archive], which was approved by the US Department of Justice [JURIST report] in April, based on a legal challenge filed by former Democratic Gov. Roy E. Barnes and civil rights groups. Barnes alleges that the law makes voting more difficult for minorities, the elderly and the poor. In a statement [text] responding to Westmoreland's ruling Friday, Perdue said:
I am disappointed that Superior Court Judge Melvin Westmoreland today temporarily stopped implementation of Georgia's Voter ID law. Democracy only works because people have trust in the integrity of the ballot box. I respectfully disagree with Judge Westmoreland, and believe that Georgias law is not only constitutional, but a common sense, prudent protection of the election process. ...The current version of the law offers free photo IDs to voters who need them, after a federal judge blocked [JURIST report] a previous version of the Georgia law last year. AP has more. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has local coverage [registration required].
Even the commission headed by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III recommended free, easily available, tamper-proof national photo IDs for all voters to prevent fraud and increase citizen confidence in the electoral system. While 24 states have some form of identification requirement for voting, the state of Indiana's photo ID requirement, which is much like Georgias law, has been upheld by federal court and on appeal.