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.”

Georgia’s Voter Identification Law Barred (AP)

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 — the loss of their right to vote — 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.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Sgt Fluffy says:

    Alabama right next door has had a law like this for a while and no one complains

  2. RiverRat says:

    The Hispanic argument is BS. Mexico has had a similar law for several years. They have a Federal Voter ID Card with both photo and fingerprint. No tarjeta, No Vota.

  3. Kent says:

    Thunderbird, it’s awfully early in the day for such heavy sarcasm.

    … That was sarcasm, right?

  4. Scott in CA says:

    I think Georgia will do quite fine on appeal.

  5. People have a right to bear arms under the Second Amendment. Does this mean that there should be no ID checking for that as well?

  6. Ugh says:

    Er, it was noted elsewhere that there wasn’t a single place in the entire city of Atlanta to get the free cards.

  7. McGehee says:

    Not to worry, Ugh — the state delivers.

  8. Mike says:

    It was horrible. There I was waiting patiently to exercise my rights. I walked right up to the desk and said, “2 Coors, please.” Her response horrified and humilitated me – “Sorry hon, gotta see some photo ID. You look 16 to me.” Oh the pain, I shall never forget that horrible day!

  9. LibraryLady says:

    Louisiana requires photo ID and it has created no problem that I know of.

    Common Cause ran a full page ad in the NYTimes this week asking if we would use an ATM that didn’t give us paper proof. I emailed them and said, “No, and I wouldn’t bank at a bank that didn’t ask for ID either”.

  10. Cathy says:

    A majority of 30 states do not require registered voters to present any form of ID as a condition of voting, while a minority of 20 states require voters to present some form of ID. Of these 20 states, only two (Georgia and Indiana) require that voters present a photo ID AS THE SOLE method of identification required as a condition of voting.

    Someone mentioned Alabama and Louisiana. These states and others have exceptions like birth certificates.

    The Georgia and Indiana ID Laws are pending a legal challenge. I know in Georgia that the judge’s injunction applies to the upcoming November elections.

    One post said there wasn’t a single motor vehicle place in Atlanta. THIS IS TRUE. Also, there are 159 counties and only 56 offices in the Department of Driver Services (DDS), probably known to other states as the DMV.

    So, now you see the added burden of finding these places. Plus, I will tell you they are NOT free unless you swear under oath that you are indigent and cannot pay. Indigent is a vague term in this law and folks who are really indigent may not qualify because they do have $20 or $30 bucks.
    There is also a hindrance for folks a little shy about swearing they cannot pay.

    BUT, just to be upbeat, let’s presume that a few people swear indigency and the fee is waived. Exciting, yes. But, these same folks had to pay for the required ID that DDS requires in order to get a photo ID. A little catch 22 coming here….hence the term POLL TAX.

    So, somehow a potential voter was able to snag a certified copy of his/her birth certificate, but it took 4-10 weeks and cost up to $20. Now this all happens if the voter is young enough to remember which county they were born in and hopefully they were not born at home. This would require a whole different scenario.

    DDS requires: original birth certificate, CERTIFIED copy of birth certificate, certified court records, certified naturalization records, Immigration ID card, and valid PASSPORT ($65 or more!).

    H.B. 244 (Georgia ID Law) violates the “Civil Rights Act of 1964 (specifically 42 U.S.C. Section 1971(a)(2)(B)) because it applied different standards for voters who vote in person compare to those who vote by absentee ballot. The photo ID requirement also violates this same Act because it denies individuals who are fully qualified and lawfully registered the right to vote in person solely on whether or not they have a GOVERNMENT-issues ID.

    Students who have photo IDs issued by PRIVATE colleges and universities (Emory, Morehouse, Mercer) will need another form of ID. Only IDs from GOVERNMENT-run schools will be accepted.

    There are those folks who do not drive because they are POOR and do not own a vehicle. An estimated 152,000 Georgians who voted in 2004 were over the age of 60 (“the ELDERLY). Many others are impaired, visually or physically, living in retirement or nursing homes and do not have driver’s licenses.

    H.B. also violates the 14th and 24th Amendments because it treats voters unequally and imposes a Poll Tax on the right to vote.

    H.B. also violates the “Georgia Constitution” because it creates an “entirely new set of voting qualifications beyond those specified in the State Constitution….”

    None of this has to be done for absentee voters which is the very area there might be fraud (although Cathy Cox, Secretary of State/Elections Division said this fraud hardly exists), and also the opponents justification for such a draconian restriction is ABSENTEE FRAUD. Is this making any sense?

    I say let’s concentrate on those Electronic Voting Machines from Diebold. Where is the accountability ? Deja vu Bush elections all over again. WHERE IS THE PAPER TRAIL ?

    I know it’s hard to keep up with all the “details” of ID Laws. You may want to check out:
    and the ACLU.

    Just thought I’d share this with you since I lived in Virginia for 25 years and am now in Brunswick, Georgia working for a mayoral campaign.