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Ga. Court Tosses Voter ID Challenge

  Breaking Legal News  -   POSTED: 2007/06/13 15:30

The Georgia Supreme Court threw out a challenge Monday to the state's voter ID law, but sidestepped a decision on the law's validity by ruling that the plaintiff didn't have legal standing to challenge it. The court's unanimous opinion reversed a decision in September by Fulton County Superior Court Judge T. Jackson Bedford, who ruled the law was unconstitutional and an undue burden on voters. After that ruling, the State Election Board decided not to require voters to show a photo ID to cast a ballot in the November elections.

With another challenge to the law pending in federal court, it was unclear if the state could begin requiring voters to show identification at the polls.

For months, lawyers have been battling over the law, one of several passed recently across the country.

Opponents claim the photo ID law will disenfranchise minorities, the poor and the elderly who don't have a driver's license or other valid government-issued photo ID.

The law's mostly Republican supporters say it is needed to prevent voter fraud and preserve the integrity of the electoral system. No examples of in-person voter fraud have been presented, though the proposal's backers often mention the threat of noncitizens casting illegal ballots.

Monday's ruling, written by Justice Harold Melton, said that plaintiff Rosalind Lake was not harmed by the voter ID law and lacked standing to challenge it since she was exempt as a first-time voter.

The Secretary of State's office, which enforces voting law, did not immediately comment. But the law's sponsor, state Sen. Cecil Staton, said the court's opinion reinforced the Legislature's intent when it passed the law last year.

"It gives credence to our position all along that the argument that there are many, many people who are harmed by this law is just not correct," said Staton, a Macon Republican. "They didn't even have a plaintiff who's been harmed."

State Rep. Tyrone Brooks, D-Atlanta, vowed to "continue to fight this battle in federal court."

At the federal level, U.S. District Judge Harold Murphy struck down an earlier version of the law in 2005, saying it amounted to an unconstitutional poll tax. The Legislature addressed his complaints in a subsequent version, but he blocked the law again in September, saying the bill isn't in the public's interest. An appeal is pending.

Other states have faced similar legal battles over requiring voters to have photo IDs.

In Arizona, the law survived court challenges, and voters have had to show a photo ID to vote since 2006. In Missouri, the state Supreme Court in October struck down a law that required voters there to show a photo identification.

A federal appeals court upheld Indiana's voter ID law in January, saying it has the potential to do more good than harm. A month later, a New Mexico federal judge struck down the city of Albuquerque's voter ID ordinance.


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