Sunday, August 07, 2005

How GOP Voter 'Reforms' Cut Dem Votes in GA

August 7, 2005
How GOP Voter 'Reforms' Cut Dem Votes in GA

On first consideration, the new Georgia law requiring picture identification to vote seems reasonable enough as a tool for preventing voter fraud. But, as Cynthia Tucker notes in her recent Atlanta Constitution article "Easy to identify hypocrisy of Georgia Republicans' voter ID law," such seemingly fair requirements provide a transparent mask for a highly partisan agenda:

...white Georgians are five times more likely to have a car or truck than black Georgians. According to Kilpatrick Stockton attorney Seth Cohen, about 4 percent of white adults in Georgia lack a driver's license, but more than four times as many black adults — about 18 percent — lack one.

...Furthermore, the Legislature passed its new law while doing precious little to fix the backlog for driver's licenses. The newly created Department of Driver Services, where voters will have to go for their new state-sponsored IDs, is still short-staffed. As it stands, only 56 motor vehicle safety licensing branches serve Georgia's 159 counties

Georgia does provide a state photo I.D., knowing full well that many voters, particularly seniors with mobility problems, will not go the extra trouble to apply for one and many others are unaware of the process. Echoing Rep. John Lewis (see post below), Tucker, points out that voter suppression is a national problem:

...Across the country, GOP strategists have used dirty tricks against Native Americans, blacks and Latinos, ranging from false reports of invalid registration to threatening legitimate voters with arrest. They've been doing it for years. In 1993, Republican operative Ed Rollins, who managed Christine Whitman's run for governor of New Jersey, made headlines when he attributed her success, in part, to his tactic of paying black preachers to keep their congregants away from the polls. Though he later retracted the claim, it had the unfortunate ring of truth.

Since then, the tactics have only become more open and more aggressive. In 2003, South Dakota's GOP-dominated state Legislature passed a law requiring photo IDs, and it kept many of that state's Native Americans, reliable Democratic voters, from the polls last year. Perhaps it's no coincidence, then, that Tom Daschle, who had been Senate minority leader, lost his race for re-election.

Tucker points out that Georgia's Republican-dominated state legislature and Governor have done nothing to require identification for absentee ballots, most of which are cast for GOP candidates. She quotes Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox: "In contrast to the lack of voter fraud relating to impersonating voters at the polls, the State Election Board has reviewed scores of cases of alleged voter fraud relating to the use of absentee ballots."

The example of Georgia's voter i.d. law provides a compelling illustration of the urgent need to make renewal of provisions of the Voting Rights Act a priority. If the Georgia law is allowed to stand, it will be replicated in other states, and Democrats will pay the price.
Posted by EDM staff