Saturday, August 27, 2005

The Roll-Back of Civil Rights

AP - The Justice Department on Friday approved a controversial Georgia law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls, and opponents immediately vowed to challenge the measure in federal court... The Republican-backed measure sparked racial tension during the state's legislative session last spring. Most of Georgia's black lawmakers walked out at the state Capitol when it was approved.

Democrats had argued the idea was a political move by the GOP to depress voting among minorities, the elderly and the poor -- all traditional bases for Democrats. The measure would eliminate the use of several currently accepted forms of voter identification, such as Social Security cards, birth certificates or utility bills...

Nineteen states require voters to show identification, but only five request photo ID's, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Those states -- Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina and South Dakota -- allow voters without a photo ID to use other forms of identification or sign an affidavit of identity.

"The decision to clear the measure now gives Georgia the most draconian voter identification requirement in the nation," said Daniel Levitas of the American Civil Liberties Union's Voting Rights Project in Atlanta.

Gov. Sonny Perdue, like other Republicans, has said the measure is aimed at preventing voter fraud. "It will not be a hardship on any voter," Perdue said when he signed the bill.

The new Georgia law also allows people to vote absentee without an excuse, and for a longer period. Those votes by mail would not require a picture ID. Political observers say Republicans tend to benefit the most from absentee balloting.

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