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Georgia judge blocks voter ID law as unconstitutional

[JURIST] Judge Melvin K. Westmoreland of Fulton County Superior Court [official website] issued a temporary restraining order Friday blocking the implementation of Georgia's photo identification cards for voters, holding that the authorizing bill [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 that alleges the law makes voting more difficult for minorities, the elderly and the poor. Republican officials, who are expected to appeal the restraining order to the state supreme court, contend that the law is necessary to prevent voter fraud, but Democrats maintain that there is no problem with voter fraud in the state with no reported cases in over a decade. The voter ID cards are slated to be used for the first time in a state primary scheduled for July 18, but the restraining order effectively blocks their use until the matter is resolved in a civil trial or by a higher state court.

On Wednesday, the ACLU and other voting rights advocates filed a motion [text, PDF] in federal district court seeking a preliminary injunction, arguing that the bill authorizing the cards violates the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution's Fourteenth Amendment [text] as well as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 [text], and that it constitutes a poll tax in violation of the Twenty-fourth Amendment [text]. The state will submit briefs in support of the law on Monday, and on Wednesday the district court will hear oral arguments regarding the injunction. The New York Times has more.

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