Hyman returns for a third time to the issue of photo voter I.D. cards in Georgia. The Georgia legislature passed a law requiring all voters to produce a government photo I.D. in order to vote in any election. Twice, Georgia courts have struck the law down as unconstitutional.
Hyman's most recent editorial on the issue (precipitated by the latest court ruling against the statute) is an almost word for word repeat of an earlier "Point" he did on the same topic. To save a bit of time, I offer the response I gave the first time around.
One would think that ensuring that every American is offered the unfettered opportunity to their constitutional right to vote would be something people of all political stripes could get behind. Apparently it ain't so.
In a recent commentary, Hyman wails and gnashes his teeth about the ruling of U.S. District Court Judge Harold Murphy who said in a recent decision that the recent law passed by the Georgia legislature to enforce mandatory photo voter ID was unconstitutional. Judge Murphy said in his decision that although he respected the state legislature, he respected the U. S. Constitution even more.
Hyman claims that the only people who could possibly be against the Georgia law are "conspiracy theorists" and "agitators" who believe their candidate can't win in an honest election (he doesn't say which of these categories Judge Murphy falls into).
The now-defunct Georgia law would require voters to show photo ID in order to vote. For those without a driver's license, this would mean purchasing a government ID for $20 or $35 (depending on the number of years the ID would be valid).
Of course, many people who don't have a driver's license also don't have an extra $35 to shell out just in order to do what they have a guaranteed right to do: vote.
According to Hyman, this is a moot point since those who are "indigent" could fill out paperwork to plead poverty and get a free ID.
There are just a few problems with this, however. First, it requires that people humiliate themselves by claiming indigence if they want to vote. Second, many of the potential voters who would need this ID live in rural counties without driver's license bureaus. The state is kind enough to provide a mobile licensing bus that would travel to the voters; the only problem is that there is one such bus, and 159 counties. If the bus doesn't get to you (or you miss it for the nanosecond it's in your neck of the woods), tough. Third, and more philosophically, it's unconstitutional to require anyone of any income level to have to pay to vote. No one, no matter how wealthy or poor, should have to pay money to the government to exercise constitutionally the constitutionally guaranteed right to vote.
According to an article in the Christian Science Monitor, as many as 6% of eligible voters in Georgia would be kept from voting by the new restrictions (and given that most of these people will be poor and/or minorities, guess which party will benefit by these restrictions).
Hyman will tell you that the ID law is simply there to stop voter fraud, which is itself a danger to the democratic process. So the question is this: which poses the greater threat to the democratic process in Georgia, voter fraud or the disenfranchisement of black voters?
As for voter fraud, it's not an issue. There hasn't been a recorded case of voter impersonation in Georgia (the type of voter fraud targeted by the legislation) in nine years. It's simply not a problem.
Now, does Georgia have a history of problems with the disenfranchisement of black voters?
Li'l bit . . . Li'l bit. I've heard things.
You don't even need to go back to the bad old days of Jim Crow to find evidence aplenty that black voters still aren't represented accurately in the electoral process. Thousands of voters in Georgia were disenfranchised in 2000 due to "ballot spoilage." A statistical study sponsored by the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University looked into the role of ballot spoilage in 2000 to see if there were any patterns in whose ballots got spoiled the most. Surprise, surprise: counties with particularly high rates of vote spoilage also happened to have particularly high rates of African American voters.
And there's evidence to suggest that the GOP was eager to keep black voter turnout down in 2004. The Washington Post noted that in Florida, a disproportionate number of voter registration applications filled out by African Americans were deemed "incomplete." Additionally, for every one Republican registration declared incomplete, there were three Democratic registrations that were declared null and void.
Given this, which hypothesis seems more likely--that the Republican led Georgia state legislature and the Republican governor were eager to pass a law to solve a nonexistent problem, or that they were eager to pass a law that would assuredly whittle down the number of black and poor voters (who happen to vote overwhelmingly Democratic)?
I'm just wondering.
And that's The Counterpoint.
PS. Not surprisingly, Republican lawmakers appealed Judge Murphy’s ruling, but the injunction was upheld by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Must be a bunch of agitators and conspiracy theorists on that court, right Mark?
Hyman Index: 3.76