Bill Stephens In the New York Times

Stephens has gone to bat on the Voter ID law. From a press release:

After two weeks of discussion and editing, the editorial staff at the New York Times printed a letter-to-the-editor from Senator Bill Stephens defending Georgia’s new voter photo identification law.

Stephens’ was responding to a July 20 Times editorial critical of the law (see as-printed and originally-submitted versions of Stephens’ letter below). Stephens’ letter appeared in the Sunday, August 14, issue of the publication.

Although the original Times editorial criticizing the Georgia law exceeded 300 words, Senator Stephens was limited to half of that length in which to defend the new law.

“I didn’t mind being limited because I can refute a liberal attack on the Voter ID law with one-half of my words tied behind my back!� said Stephens slightly tongue-in-cheek.

“In all seriousness, I am excited to have the opportunity to defend Georgia against the unfounded fears being raised by Jesse Jackson and the New York Times editorial board,� said Stephens. “Even Mexico has a Voter ID law, and it is time the other side of the story was heard on this issue.�

One thing that press people need to do when sending things out to blogs now is provide a link so we who have real jobs and are too lazy to scour the New York Times can put up a link to his letter.

I might need to start a Peach Pundit lecture series on blogs in politics. Hmmm . . . .

[UPDATE] Katie Grove, campaign aide extraordinaire, was quick on the resend and sent along the link to Senator Stephens’s letter to the New York Times. The letter is here. Unfortunately, Senator Stephens was limited in words while the leftist editors got as much as they wanted in their original editorial.


  1. Tater Tate says:

    Lot’s of folks are taking credit for this idea now. Didn’t Sue Bermeister in the House and someone else in the Senate originally carry the ball on this?

    Nevertheless, Stephens has to get some credit as Majority Leader. Probably wouldn’t have passed if he had not approved.

  2. Hammertime says:

    This was originally Sen. Joe Burton’s issue – if you want to give credit where credit is due.

  3. Erick says:

    Actually, I think Cecil Staton gets the credit. I suggested it to him, he asked me to write a draft, which I gladly did, and he took it forward. Cecil was lead sponsor in the Senate for S.B. 84, the Senate version of the Voter ID Bill.

    [UPDATE] Sorry Hammertime. BillyTheKid’s memory refresher was needed. Yes, Joe Burton should get credit for being ahead of his time.

  4. BillyTheKid says:

    What Erick suggests is correct. Senator Staton was the lead sponsor of that portion of the bill. Senate Bill 84, Senator Staton’s legislation, passed in the Senate, and was eventually absorbed into HB 244, and became Section 59. The credit goes to Joe Burton, for trying for so many years, and to Senator Staton (R – Macon), for standing in the well, being called a Nazi, and having shackles and orange jumpsuits waved at him in the chamber. His poise under fire is to be admired. Praise is also to be given to Senator John Wiles, chairman of the Senate SLOGO committee, for effectively shepherding the issue through his committee.

  5. BillyTheKid says:

    I also agree with Bill Simon. It’s almost laughable how Stephen’s campaign has stepped up to the plate over the blood and sweat of other hard working legislators, and made himself to be the Champion Defender of the Realm of Voter ID.

  6. Booray says:

    Mr. Simon –

    Your negativity knows no end.

    Any candidate who defends Georgia in the NY Times earns some brownie points as far as I’m concerned, Democrat or Republican (I seem to recall Zell winning some points with me and some others by defending us there one time, even before his right-wing epiphany. If I recall correctly, it was about Jane Fonda’s “third-world” comments about N Georgia).

    Every Republican leader in the General Assembly caught hell over this bill (remember that woman from Cobb County singing in the well while Glenn Richardson was trying to stop her? That was about the voter ID bill). Everybody involved in this bill (and the defense of it – saw something from Jerry Keen in the paper the other day) deserves a pat on the back, whether you support their campaigns now or not.

    Booray Bussey

  7. Booray says:

    Mr. Kid –

    As I noted in a previous “discussion” with Mr. Simon, I live in Stephens’ district and have followed his career pretty closely.

    He is not new to voting issues. I recall him and Tom Price sponsoring a bill about this back during Democrat control. It is also true to say that nothing of the significance of Voter ID happens in the General Assembly without the active support of leadership (see note above about the hell all the leadership has and continues to catch over this – Jerry Keen wrote an article defending this law in the AJC but he’s not accused of stealing someone else’s “work”).

    I do have one criticism of Stephens – why hasn’t he and other Republicans who say they support paper backups of computer voting made it happen. In my opinion, that’s a legitimate criticism, not the one you are citing.

    Booray Bussey

  8. BillyTheKid says:


    Neither is Mr. Keen seeking higher office on someone else’s work.

    I think you are referring to a voter verifiable trail.

    The “woman from Cobb County” is Rep. Alisha Morgan.

  9. Bill Simon says:


    Do you ever have to check yourself into the hospital from having your knee jerk-up and hit you in the jaw after reading one of my posts?

    In answer to your question, my realistic view of the world has no bounds. Whether you decide to interpret the truth as a negative is your problem.

  10. Booray says:

    Mr. Kid –

    Nice try at making me appear uninformed. You mistake casual wording of my post with lack of information on the topic.

    Like I said, I live in Stephens’ district, and I get a pretty good flow of information on what he does (and doesn’t do). It is my understanding that the Voter ID bill was written by leadership and given to key, important members to carry on the floor.

    Frankly, even as solid a senator as Sen. Staton appears to be, it’s a little far-fetched to think the whole idea of Voter ID was brought to the legislature by him alone and no one else was responsible for bringing that idea to the table or moving it through the legislature (especially since the voter ID bill was part of a much larger election reform bill that covered many other topics besides voter ID). It’s a standard tactic for leadership to let key younger members carry important bills to give them standing in their districts back home.

    Besides, Staton is so offended he appears on Stephens’ website as an endorser. In my opinion, you are being overly sensitive about this

    If you want to get on Stephens, get on him for not moving paper trail with the rest of that bill. That’s my gripe, but what do I know – I couldn’t give you Alisha Thomas’ name off the top of my head… 🙂

    Booray Bussey

  11. BillyTheKid says:



    You sorely mistake my purpose in that post, which was not at all to make you appear uninformed. My deepest apologies for having communicated as such. Au contraire, I completely enjoyed your intestinal fortitude in having reproved Mr. Simon for his much vitriol, as so few people are willing to do. Touche.

    In relation to the voter ID issue, I would suggest, in order to verify the true source of the voter ID legislation, you subpeona the Senate SLOGO committee and the House Governmental Affiars Committee (of which Rep. Austin Scott is the chair), and seek the public record, which will, I believe, verify Senator Staton as the originator and author of that particular mandate. The same information is also available from the United States Department of Justice. The same record will present the names of numerous witness who could testify to the same fact. In fact, you might ask Former State Senator Joe Burton, previously mentioned pioneer on this issue, and oft repeated sacrificial lamb on the alter of Democratic “tolerance.”

  12. BillyTheKid says:

    P.S. to Booray: many thanks for your professionalism and good humor in candor as we debate this topic. It’s refreshing.

  13. buzzbrockway says:

    I know this is sort of off topic, but did anyone else notice that Jesse Jackson planned their rally in support of the Voting Rights Act and against the new ID bill for the same weekend as T.D. Jakes’ “Megafest” (which brought about 175,000 people, mostly African-Americans, to Atlanta). I wonder how many people would have attended that rally if it were held some other time? Just wondering.

  14. Melb says:

    Staton and Burmeister may have pushed the bill through this session but TOM PRICE actually came up with the bill in 1998. It was his idea and the bill passed is almost identical to the one he wrote. Either way no one should be proud of this bill.

  15. GaRepub says:

    Actually, this idea originated in 1996 with David Shafer’s campaign for Secretary of State. He called for photo ID of all voters in his TV ads — and was way “ahead of its time” judging from the election results. Lewis Massey adopted and gutted the idea, passing Georgia’s current ID law in 1997 which allows everything from drivers licenses to library cards. Before 1997, there was no ID requirement for voters. Joe Burton tried for the next seven years to amend the law to allow only photo ID. Cecil Staton wrote the bill that passed.

  16. Bill Simon says:

    Wow! I do have a talent…in 2 lines of opening-up this thread, both Booray and BillyTheKid interpret those 2 lines as “much vitriol.”

    Ahh, you guys are just jealous that I can condense what needs to be said into very few words…

  17. stephaniemills21 says:

    Go ahead and supeona and committees you want in the legislator, though the general term we use here in Georgia is an Open Records Request, and you will find that they do not have to give you a damn thing. See, the legislature is exempt from open records requests.

  18. Booray says:

    To whom it may concern –

    This is kind of funny. The guy who controls the floor in the Senate writes a letter to the editor defending the Voter ID law that moved through his chamber last year from an attack by the whackos at the NY Times.

    One would think that rather noble.

    But instead it turns it a debate over who “REALLY” wrote the law and then becomes a discussion about the Open Records Law.

    Oh, well. Just my two cents worth, which will buy you absolutely nothing these days… 🙂

    Booray Bussey

  19. albert says:

    Booray,,,, we continue to eat our own, even at lesser levels.

    Seems to me that in our Regional Meetings and at the local levels we need to provide a course in teamwork. Someone once said there is no “I” in teamwork. If we ever agree in unison on anything, then we are going to be very dull people, or dead.

    Heck, I don’t know many ideas that are really original. In fact, original ideas usually go down in defeat because some naysayer says it can’t be done and everyone agrees. The person that finally perfects the idea or implements it usually gets the marbles. There ain’t a thing wrong with that.

    I’m still supporting McGuire though, but congrats to Stephens.

  20. Erick says:

    Uh, how about it was the Republicans that passed the law after years of Democrats blocking this common sense. Who gets the credit is not nearly as important as that the law was passed.

  21. kspencer says:

    For what it’s worth, I’ve got two concerns toward giving the voter ID law my wholehearted acceptance.

    First is the fact that it applies only to at-the-polls voting, not to absentee ballots. Given that nationwide (excluding one state) it’s absentee ballots that form the majority of the source of voter fraud, this seems, well, backward to me. In the arena of perception, the fact that the absentee ballots were made easier to get (and do not – yet – require the same limited set of voter ID) gives ammunition to those claiming it’s meant to suppress a segment of the voting citizenship. FWIW, I’d be overjoyed for the state to go to Oregon’s system – the state which is the exception to the absentee ballot fraud problems. However, given the money we’ve invested in new voting machines I don’t see that happening in the near future.

    Second concern is more philosophical. Remember the Social Security number? It was just supposed to be a way for the SSA to differentiate each client for their benefits. Then it became our tax ID, so anything that touched on that area (of which SSA was a small part) was a valid reason to request the number. Now… Now it’s pretty much required for everything. Or rather, it’s not illegal to request it for just about everything, although in these days identity theft has become a lot more prevalent, and a significant cause is the SSN.

    So I shift to being a little bit paranoid and ponder what use might develop from a state photo ID – or for that matter, a national photo ID. And there are places I don’t want to go, but for which I see no obstacles in getting there. Photo ID to file for your vehicle registrations? That’s not so bad, I guess. But what if they want it to make major purchases – cars and houses at first? Time to register the kids for school, whip out the ID? “Oh” say various businesses, “if you’ve got to have it and it’s a unique number, let’s start using IT for tracking events. Tell the sales register people to start requesting those at time of purchase when payment is with credit card. After all, snicker, we want to ensure people are the real owners of those credit cards. And track what they’re purchasing, of course.”

    It’s not the first step, it’s the subsequent steps that concern me.

    I like the idea – especially now that there is effort to get registration systems out to the people who need it. I’d like to see registrar offices become eligible to grant valid voter IDs at time of voter registration, but am well aware of the cost. But that’s minor – it’s the two concerns above that give me pause.

  22. Ben Raspail says:

    I am shocked that no one on this thread has given Mr. Stephens props for being the ONLY Republican who stepped up to the plate on this issue when The Reverend Jesse Jackson came to town to attack the law! If we’re handing out merit badges for “credit” for the voter photo ID issue, Stephens should be an Eagle Scout by now. It seems to me that Republicans needed someone to be the spokesperson on this issue. I am new to this blog, but it amazes me to see how negative folks go no matter how positive the news. I’m with Albert in continuing to wonder why we eat our own…

  23. gulliver says:

    “Shocked” that no one has given Stephens “props” for “stepping up to the plate” on this issue?

    He was not the guy who stood in the well and took the abuse. That was Cecil Staton. Stephens did not even sign Staton’s bill.

    Stephens was a Democrat back in 1996 when this idea was first proposed. In his entire 7 year legislative career, Stephens never once introduced a voter ID bill.

    He just latched on to it after-the-fact. Clever ploy perhaps, but clever ploys do not make one an “Eagle Scout.”

  24. gulliver says:

    This is not the first time that Stephens has issued a “debate challenge” to someone who ignored him.

    Stephens would always issue debate challenges to Mark Taylor.

    Clever tactic, trying to “raise” himself to the level of a Jessee Jackson or Mark Taylor, but it never seems to work.

  25. Silence says:


    I wouldn’t necessarily go so far as to say that Senators Staton, Burton, and Wiles originated the idea along with Rep. Burmiester. The idea has surfaced many times in the past, but I think the point ya’ll are trying to establish is that Senator Staton, in honor of Senator Burton’s hard work (the bill was entitled the Joe Burton Voter Act of 2005), was the one who stood in the well, took the fire from the Democrats, was called a racist, and a Nazi, and was accused of trying to re-institute the poll tax by Senators Miles, Fort, Thomas, Brown, and Reed. It just seems a little imbalanced to me that Senator Stephens should step up in the press, during his campaign for higher office, and try to, by all appearances, “hog” the limelight on this issue. Perhaps that wasn’t his intention; I can’t judge that. It does seem that way, however. Interestingly, Senator Wiles, the chairman who was largely instrumental in the passage of the Elections bill of 2005, witnessed the Democratic walkout this past March; however, he was ALSO around when his own colleagues walked out of the chamber during the redistricting battle when the Democratic caucus was still in power. Irony at its best?

    I do agree, however, with Erick and Albert: the important thing is that the law was passed, our elections are more secure, and we need to learn to play better as a team.

    Stephanie, I was not referring to an open records request. I realize the General Assembly is exempt from that. However, the documents used by the United States Department of Justice, are, if I’m not mistaken, available to the public view, and those documents HAVE all been gathered by USDOJ from SLOGO.

  26. Bill Simon says:

    Ben, perhaps it is because Jesse Jackson is no longer a threat to anyone that a lot of people (myself included) pooh-pooh the efforts of Bill Stephens in “defending” the Voter ID bill. It means nothing to me, just as it will mean nothing to any voter (except for Booray, who thinks Jesse Jackson is an evil bear who will swipe his honey) that Stephens takes-on Jesse Jackson.

  27. Doc says:

    Senator Stephens should be applauded for his public relations efforts. Everyone who worked on this issue deserves our thanks, from Shafer back in 1996 through Burton and then Staton in the Legislature, but Stephens is the only one with the courage to defend this effort against charges of racism. The others are quiet.

    Karen Handel and Perry McGuire should be speaking out on this issue.

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