Friday, January 27, 2006

New Voter ID Law Signed

You know, in all the excitement over redistricting, we’ve kind of fallen down on the job with respect to another Republican attempt to monkey with where and how you vote – the Voter ID Law.  

Since our last report on the Voter ID Law, the new version of the law has made it out of the General Assembly and was signed into law by Governor Sonny Perdue.  

This is a big victory for the Democrats in Georgia.  They took on the majority party, the General Assembly, and the Governor himself and they won a partial victory.  Rather than endure another round of losses in federal court, the GOP blinked.  They took their law into the woodshed, tuned it up, put a new coat of paint on it, and came out with a better law.  We’re not happy that it’s still on the books, but it’s better.

Democrats should congratulate themselves on this one.  For about five minutes, and then it’s time to get back to work.

Face it folks.  Whether the law is well-intentioned or not (and we imagine you know how we feel about that), this thing has stank to high heaven from day one.  Let’s review the stinkiness.

  • When the law was introduced, one of its primary champions was Senator Bill Stephens, who himself has been fined for ethics violations.

  • Another outspoken proponent of the bill, Rep. Sue Burmeister was quoted in a U.S. Department of Justice internal memo as saying that black people in her district only voted if you paid them.

  • Legitimate concerns about the oversight of the U.S. Department of Justice have been raised, in this blog and elsewhere, following revelations in The Washington Post that the original Voter ID law was rejected by career civil rights lawyers at DOJ.  Their recommendation was overruled by the Republican political appointees that have final approval.

Related:  The Washington Post: Politics alleged in voting cases” 01/23/06
              The Washington Post: Criticism of voting law was overruled” 11/17/05
              AthPo: Voter ID Law – Political influence at the Department of Justice?” 01/23/06
              AthPo: More on the voter id bill” 11/17/05
              Athens Banner-Herald: Governor approves voter id legislation” 01/27/06
              

22 comments:

hillary said...

It seems to me that most state Democrats did dick on this issue. The courts are the ones that did their job.

Jmac said...

Yeah, but there really is only so much Democrats can do. Last year, they boycotted the vote and attempting to get several alternative bills discussed, but when the folks in charge refuse to have any of it, whaddya gonna do?

I think Publius is right ... the courts gave them a second chance, and they made the most of it. It ain't the best bill in the world, but it's a heckuva lot better than the original.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Hillary on this one, it was the ACLU and their attorneys that fought this law after it was initially approved by Justice.
Not the democratic party, not this one locally, which can't organize it's way out of a hat... not the State party, who barely took up the issue at all... but the ACLU.

aquariusrizing

gap said...

I dont't think the motives behind this law are pure but I don't see the obvoious "stinkyness" of Publius' 3 points.

Bill Stephens may have ethics violations, but should that prevent anyone with ethics violations from introducing legislation?

Sue Bermeister is an idiot. However, just because she seems to have disdain for black people does not mean that this law will prevent them from legaly voting.

The original voter ID law was rejected by "career civil rights lawyers" but has it been reviewed in its current form.

I'm not crazy about the law but if you can put the narrow minded motives of a few aside, the law could have a the positive effect of preventing voter fraud for both parties

hillary said...

What. Voter. Fraud.

I'm not saying anything negative necessarily about Georgia Democrats by saying it wasn't them who forced the revision of the bill. Just pointing out that they don't deserve the credit. The ones who made noise did what they could.

Publius said...

The Legislative Black Caucus, all of whom are Democrats. (Unless that black Republican from down around Macon has joined; he hasn't last I heard) They did a lot of the heavy lifting on this issue, in addition to the ACLU, etc, not to mention a lot of rank-and-file Democrats.

I would concur with aquarius' comments about the Democratic party organizations, on just about every level.

This is probably an indication of future trends in the Democratic Party, where the state and local organizations are going to be less and less relevant, and the heavy lifting is going to be done by individuals and groups that work outside the organized party structure.

Dawg Corleone said...

When the Redcoats took Breed's Hill (at a cost of 1,000 of their 2,500 soldiers) someone remarked that "a few more victories like this and we will be undone."

If this voter ID bill is a win for Dems...

Well, substantively you might actually be right. Politically, though, this is an 80-20 issue, and Dems are the 20.

Anonymous said...

Its a good bill. I think you should have to show ID to vote.

And now that anyone can get one for free, it might allow others in our society who couldn't cash checks, rent movies, etc. actually do so.

BB

Publius said...

Good point, although if you don't have an ID, there are still places to cash checks, I think.

It's a better version, and if it weren't for the pretty partisan motivation behind it in the first place, I'd be happier about it.

Still, as we've said on the blog a number of times, one of our major problems with the original law was the "poll tax" aspect of it. That aspect is gone, and I don't have a problem with making people prove who they are. I just have a problem with making people pay for the right to vote.

Sure, I'm still a little uncomfortable with requiring yet another government-issued ID card, but such is life in the 21st Century.

Jmac said...

This is going to sound like I'm playing partisan politics or just being snarky, when I really am not. But I really am curious ... did Iraqi citizens have to present some sort of photo ID when they went to the polls?

Publius said...

Doubtful. Logistically, that would be pretty difficult. Which is not to say that it won't be logistically difficult here as well.

Dawg Corleone said...

Hey--anytime you want to convert to a purple dye, I'm ready! :)

DoubleDawgDareYa said...

Although you're obviously being facetious, I'll point out that all the purple dye did was ensure that nobody voted twice, not that the person was who they claimed to be or was otherwise entitled to vote. I suppose when you're just as likely as not to get blown up by a truck bomb on your way to the polls, that's about all that can be asked for, though.

Publius said...

While making it extremely clear that I'm not passing judgment on the Iraqi voting process, I'll mention that the purple dye had another purpose too.

One of the best PR moves I've seen from the US Government. It provided a great visual for the tv cameras and the front pages.

DoubleDawgDareYa said...

True. And I'll also point out that, according to the Independent Iraqi Elections Committee site, there was quite an elaborate process to establish a voter registration list, including a preliminary list based on existing records and an opportunity for persons to get themselves added to the list before the election. No mention, however, of photo IDS being required in the process.

Fishplate said...

What. Voter. Fraud.

If it is your contention that there was no voter fraud, prove it.

By its nature, fraud is hard to prove. And, I'm not sure it needs to be proven, because it can easily exist, and the bill prevents it without any undue burden on the voter. The same people that organize vans to take voters to the polls on Election Day can organize themselves to get peole to the Free ID Center.

I'll point out that all the purple dye did was ensure that nobody voted twice, not that the person was who they claimed to be or was otherwise entitled to vote.

That's all anyone is asking. One person, one vote. Can't vote in Clarke twice, can't vote in Clarke, then Oconee, etc. You should be qualified to vote by virtue of not being dead or too young to comprehend...beyond that, I don't have a problem with you voting once. If you vote outside your district to make something happen somewhere else, then your district is underrepresented, and you deserve the consequences.

hillary said...

By its nature, fraud is hard to prove. And, I'm not sure it needs to be proven, because it can easily exist, and the bill prevents it without any undue burden on the voter.

Lots of things can easily exist. It just bothers me that legislation can be pushed through so easily when there's been no real case that it's actually necessary.

Anonymous said...

but there is a partisan component to this whole bill - a component that was omitted from the bill - absentee voting.

Absentee voting has historically (recent history, that is) benefited Republicans far more than Democrats. There have been many documented and prosecuted cases of absentee voter fraud which almost certainly means that there were plenty that didn't get caught. Dead voters don't usually show up at the polling places (like many proponents of this bill like to pretend), they vote absentee.

Democrats did try to get absentee voting procedures introduced into the bill and the Republicans shot them down and shut them up every time.

Don't try to play that "the Dems didn't do anything" song on this one. A bill that can't even get introduced and assigned to committee never gets to the floor and, consequently, almost never gets into the news coverage. About the only way you can find out about stuff like this is to talk to the people who are regularly under the Dome.

Now, I'm not going to argue that the Dems have been as effective as they could have been because the facts are there that they weren't. But, when was the last time the entire House Black Caucus (along with other white Dems) walked out of a session in protest? Come to think of it, has that ever happened?

monticello_pres said...

Are we really certain that anything the House Black Caucus does is a litmus test for validity or honour?

I'm just asking - because I have never been on the fence on an issue and looked to them for guidance and enlightenment.

Fishplate said...

Lots of things can easily exist. It just bothers me that legislation can be pushed through so easily when there's been no real case that it's actually necessary.

If that's the criteria, then I'd reckon 90% of legislation that passes (what an appropriate term) is pointless.

hillary said...

If that's the criteria, then I'd reckon 90% of legislation that passes (what an appropriate term) is pointless.

I sincerely doubt it's 90%. Though the natural gas tax break is a nice example of it.

codeman38 said...

There's still one thing that bugs me about the 'updated' voter ID law. To quote the Banner-Herald article:

"Under this year's changes, a state ID would be provided free to anyone who needs one and the cards would be available at one location, at least, in each of Georgia's 159 counties."

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the DMV office that's way out in the middle of nowhere and on none of the bus routes still considered to be within Clarke County? And the cynical side of my mind suspects that that will remain the only place to get an ID. Wonderful catch-22, to need a driver's license in order to get a non-driver ID...