Judge Overturns Georgia Voter ID Law
A federal judge has ruled Georgia’s law requiring voters to show photo ID cards amounts to an unconstitutional “poll tax.”
A federal judge Tuesday blocked Georgia from enforcing a new state law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. In issuing the preliminary injunction, U.S. District Judge Harold Murphy said the law amounts to an unconstitutional poll tax because the state is not doing enough to make ID cards available to those who cannot afford them. The requirement “is most likely to prevent Georgia’s elderly, poor and African-American voters from voting,” Murphy wrote. “For those citizens, the character and magnitude of their injury Ã¢€” the loss of their right to vote Ã¢€” is undeniably demoralizing and extreme.”
So far, the law has been used only for local elections. The injunction could prevent its use during municipal elections Nov. 8.
Voter and civil rights groups sued over the new law, which eliminates the use of other forms of voter identification, such as
Social Security cards, birth certificates or utility bills. Supporters, including Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue, argued that the measure would help prevent fraud. A driver’s license with a photo is sufficient under the law. But those who do not have a license must obtain a state ID card, which can cost up to $35. The governor said such cards would be given free to those who cannot afford the fee.
Murphy’s ruling is absurd on its face if the state is giving the cards free. A tax of zero is not a tax!
One might reasonably that this somehow violates the Equal Protection clause of the XIVth Amendment or, more easily, the unwritten privacy right discovered hiding in the shadows by the Supremes in 1965. But a poll tax?!
Requiring photo identification is argued to create an undue burden on racial minorities, especially Hispanics, who might be loathe to subject themselves to official scrutiny. This strikes me as a stretch but it is at least somewhat plausible sociologically.
Regardless, preventing fraudulent voting is a perfectly legitimate government interest and the burden placed here is much more minimal than that placed on the right of free expression imposed by McCain-Feingold and other campaign finance reform efforts that have passed constitutional muster.