Georgia Supreme Court upholds voter ID law

[JURIST] The Georgia Supreme Court [official website] on Monday upheld [decision, PDF] a state law that requires voters to present one of six government-issued photo identifications in order to vote. The Democratic Party of Georgia [party website] brought the suit against Governor Sonny Perdue, Secretary of State Karen Handel and the State Election board seeking permanent injunctive relief against enforcement of the 2006 Photo ID Act (OCGA § 21-2-417 text, PDF), contending that the ID requirement imposes a condition on the right of registered Georgia voters to vote, in violation of numerous sections of the state's constitution. The Democratic Party further argued that the act creates an undue burden on the right to vote and thus violates the equal protection clause of the Georgia Constitution. The court, voting 6-1, held:

The 2006 Act does not deprive any Georgia voter from casting a ballot in any election. A registered voter who does not possess a photo ID and who desires to vote in person can obtain a free photo ID at one or more locations in the county of his or her residence. This Court has held that requiring an additional step in the voting process in order to validate identity is not unconstitutional. Alternatively, if a registered voter appears at the polls without a photo ID, that individual may still cast a provisional ballot and have the vote counted upon presentation of an acceptable photo ID within 48 hours. Finally, an elector who does not wish to obtain a free photo ID can vote by absentee ballot by mail.
The 2006 Photo ID Act has been challenged, relatively unsuccessfully, since its inception. In 2009, the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] upheld [JURIST report] the law after two elderly voters in Georgia filed suit, alleging that the ID regulation made it difficult for them to participate in elections. This decision, along with the most recent one, rely to a large extent on the April 2008 Supreme Court ruling in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board [opinion, PDF; JURIST report], which held that Indiana's controversial voter identification statute did not put an undue burden on the right to vote and therefore did not violate the US Constitution.

In contrast, a three-judge panel for the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] struck down [JURIST report] a portion of an Arizona law requiring proof of citizenship for voter registration in October. The court held that the law, Proposition 200 [text, PDF], was inconsistent with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) [materials], which was passed with the intent of increasing voter registration and removing barriers to registration imposed by the states. The NVRA requires voters to attest to the validity of the information on their registration form, including their citizenship, but does not require them to provide additional proof of citizenship. Proposition 200 went beyond the federal statute, requiring applicants to show proof of citizenship before registering to vote.

 

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