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Federal judge dismisses challenge to Alabama voter ID law

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Alabama on Wednesday dismissed [opinion PDF] a lawsuit challenging the state's voter ID law.

Alabama's voter ID law [text, PDF] was passed in 2011 in an effort to combat potential voter fraud. The law requires Alabama residents to present a form of photo identification when they go to the polls to vote. Among the types of photo identification allowed under the law are IDs from colleges/universities, employers and unexpired driver's licenses. If Alabama residents have never held a valid form of identification, the law indicates they are able to obtain a free ID for voting purposes in various locations including the Secretary of State's Office and the local county board of registrars' offices.

The lawsuit [JURIST report] was brought against the state of Alabama by Greater Birmingham Ministries [advocacy website], which claimed that Alabama's voter ID law violates the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the US Constitution. Plaintiffs alleged "a history of voter discrimination in Alabama" and "racist statements (referring to Black voters as 'illiterates' and 'aborigines') made by several legislators during recorded conversations contemporaneous to the passage of the Photo ID Law but that did not involve the Photo ID Law." In response, Secretary of State John Merrill argued "that the Photo ID Law was not passed with a discriminatory purpose but was passed to combat voter fraud, increase voter confidence, and to modernize elections, all policies held by the Supreme Court to be legitimate and furthered by a photo ID law."

Judge L Scott Coogler agreed with Merrill in his opinion, saying:

minorities do not have less opportunity to vote under Alabama's Photo ID law, because everyone has the same opportunity to obtain an ID. Black, Hispanic, and white voters are equally able to sign a voter registration form or registration form update. They have the same opportunity to get to a registrar’s office, and to the extent there is a difference in convenience, they have the same opportunity to request a home visit." He further says the photo identification law cannot have a "discriminatory impact on voting when the law does not prevent anyone from voting.
The case was dismissed and left the photo ID law intact.

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