Oct. 28, 2005 – Opponents of tight identification requirements at election polling places cleared another hurdle yesterday on their way to overturning a Georgia law that restricts the types of ID accepted at the voting booth. A three-judge panelâ€™s unanimous decision not to lift an injunction put in place by a lower court last week may prevent the law from being enacted in upcoming elections and clears the way for a broader challenge launched by a coalition of progressive organizations.
"We are extremely pleased with todayâ€™s court decision," said Neil Bradley, associate director of the American Civil Liberties Unionâ€™s Voting Rights Project, in a statement issued yesterday. "Two federal courts have now recognized the potential of this law to place an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote for thousands of Georgia voters, especially minorities, the elderly and the poor."
Earlier this year, the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of several groups challenging the recently enacted legislation, which would require residents to show one of just three state-approved forms of photographic identification in order to vote. The groups charged that the law discriminates against the poor, who are least likely to have driversâ€™ licenses or other state-issued picture identification.
The NAACP, Common Cause, ACLU and other organizations quickly filed suit, claiming that the law was unconstitutional because it would disproportionately impact minorities, the poor and the elderly, groups most likely to lack approved identification. The plaintiffs also said the stateâ€™s few motor vehicles offices are prohibitively far away in many cases for state residents to reasonably be expected to obtain acceptable ID from them.
In a 123-page ruling last week, US District Court Judge Harold Murphy agreed with the challenge and placed a temporary stay on the law, which had previously been utilized in local elections. State lawyers immediately appealed to a higher court.
In finding that the suit had merit, the Eleventh Circuit Court on Thursday upheld the temporary injunction leaving the state a narrow avenue of appeal and agreeing to expedite hearings on any such filing -- possibly before voters head to the polls on November 8.