Of Counsel

Legal Notes on Georgia and The South

Voter Fraud

Posted by Maggie on January 9, 2008

There are some big Georgia issues I do not touch on in the blog. Like the Grady Hospital crisis, the drought, and plenty of others. When you live here it seems as though you’re constantly surrounded by stories about these crises and I don’t really have the heart to address them more.

But one big issue in Georgia is coming up today when the US Supreme Court addresses Indiana’s Voter ID law. Georgia’s similar law has been highly controversial and whether it survives will depend on the Indiana ruling.

If you are unfamiliar with the two sides of this controversy, I will explain them in brief. One side says we need ID’s to prevent voter fraud. The other side says this requirement disenfranchises poor and elderly voters. Both sides accuse the other of having no data to support their beliefs. This morning I was reading a thorough write-up debunking claims of voter fraud data.

I’m firmly on the disenfranchisement side. It bothers me that Judges and others who hear these cases combat this claim by saying they don’t know anyone who doesn’t have a photo ID. They can’t imagine getting along without one. Well, I know plenty of people. And they are all either seniors or below the poverty line. In fact, I ran into a situation the other day where a relatively well-off person with a stable business had no photo ID. She doesn’t drive, she doesn’t travel, she has other people in her life who do most of the things that require ID for her.

But the thing that I hope is emphasized in argument today is one of those lovely little lawyerly terms: narrowly tailored. If voter fraud was such a problem, you would want to attack it at its source, right? Unfortunately, the easiest way to commit voter fraud is through absentee ballots. But, of course, the photo ID requirement exempt these ballots. So the legislation has a goal, but instead of trying to effectively meet that goal, it chooses one particular means to meet its end. And it’s not a particularly good one.

The Brennan Center for Justice, author of the above article, also submitted an amicus brief on the Indiana case available here.

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