JUNE 03, 2009
Claiming that it has a “discriminatory effect” on minorities, the Department of Justice has blocked a state from implementing a measure—passed by its legislature and approved by federal courts—to verify that voters are U.S. citizens eligible to cast ballots.
After discovering that non citizens had voted in state elections and thousands more had fraudulently attempted to register, Georgia lawmakers passed a law requiring voters to present a government-issued photo identification card at the polls. Among the accepted forms of ID are Social Security cards, driver’s licenses and special identification cards issued by the state for free.
Minority rights groups, such as the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), sued to block the law’s implementation but in late 2008 a federal judge denied the motion and directed the state to continue the verification process.
A few days ago the Department of Justice stepped in and nixed the voter ID law, claiming that it puts an undue burden on blacks, Hispanics and Asians to prove their citizenship when trying to vote. In a letter to Georgia’s Secretary of State, the DOJ concludes that the measure has a “discriminatory effect” on minority voters.
In a strongly worded statement, Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel said that the Justice Department’s intervention of an already implemented citizenship verification process—approved by two federal courts—shows a “shocking disregard for the integrity of our elections.” She explains that the law was created after evidence that non citizens have voted in past Georgia elections and that more than 2,100 individuals with questionable citizenship have attempted to register.
The Obama Administration’s move on this matter is hardly surprising since the president was highly critical of voter verification laws during his lengthy campaign. Nearly two dozen states have enacted voter ID laws to prevent fraud and last spring the Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s law, rejecting the argument that requiring photo identification will deter poor and minorities from voting in elections.
In its 6-3 decision (Crawford v. Marion County Election Board) the court said that Indiana’s photo ID requirement “is amply justified by the valid interest in protecting the integrity and reliability of the electoral process” and that it could not “conclude that the statute imposes excessively burdensome requirements on any class of voters.”
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