July 11, 2005 – Twenty-five organizations and several state politicians and attorneys are petitioning the US Department of Justice to closely scrutinize recently-passed Georgia legislation that narrows the types of identification residents can present in order to vote. According to the organizations, the proposed law presents a nearly insurmountable bar to voting for many of the stateâ€™s poor and minority residents.
In a statement announcing the delivery of the petitioning letter Friday, the American Civil Liberties Unionâ€™s Voting Rights Project noted that the legislation, passed in March and signed into law by Governor Sonny Perdue in April, requires residents to have photo ID to vote and reduces the types of identification permissible for voting purposes from seventeen to six.
These requirements, the groups charge, represent a deliberate attempt to disenfranchise African Americans in the state, who are less likely than whites to have a driverâ€™s license or other forms of ID. The Federal Election Commission has previously ruled that photographic ID cards present an undue financial burden" and cannot be required to obtain access to a voting booth.
Critics of the new rules point out that there is no recent history of complaints that anyone had impersonated an existing voter at a polling place in Georgia.
In an attachment to the letter, State Senator Robert Brown noted that the bill will adversely affect rural and elderly Georgians, in addition to the stateâ€™s African American population, because the state has few motor vehicle offices where residents must go to obtain acceptable photo identification. Additionally, State Senator Kasim Reed pointed out that there is no allocation of funds for voter education about the changes, which may present further obstacles to minorities and the economically deprived.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 requires that the Justice Department review changes to voting laws proposed by Georgia and several other states that used poll taxes and other obstacles to voting during the so-called Jim Crow Era.