Here is Karen Handel’s response to the DPG lawsuit on the voter ID. This was forwarded along to me this morning. I haven’t check to see if has appeared anywhere else.
On Friday, May 23, millions of Georgians were busy planning their Memorial Day weekends, writing letters and making phone calls to loved ones serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, and remembering family members and friends who paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country. That same day, the Democratic Party of Georgia (DPG) was busy on a different matter: filing a fourth lawsuit against the State attacking the voter ID law. This lawsuit is brought by the same lawyers who filed the first three. All three were dismissed – one by the plaintiffs voluntarily and the other two by the courts. The State must now spend hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars fighting the DPG’s baseless and repetitive claims.
Ironically, a month ago, the United States Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Indiana’s more stringent photo identification requirement by a 6-3 margin. In the majority opinion, written by Justice John Paul Stevens, who is one of the Court’s most liberal members, the Supreme Court concluded that Indiana’s photo identification law is “justified by the valid interest in protecting the integrity and reliability of the electoral process.” Georgia, of course, shares that same interest.
Justice Antonin Scalia concurred, adding, “To vote in Indiana, everyone must have and present a photo identification that can be obtained for free. The State draws no classifications, let alone discriminatory ones, except to establish optional absentee and provisional balloting for certain poor, elderly, and institutionalized voters and for religious objectors.”
In Georgia, the photo identification requirement also applies equally to every voter, but in Georgia, any voter can vote an absentee ballot. No excuse is needed to request an absentee ballot, and no photo identification is required to vote an absentee ballot by mail. A Georgia voter who does not have an acceptable form of photo identification when voting in-person can also cast a provisional ballot at the poll and then has 48 hours to return to his or her county registrar’s office with an acceptable form of identification to have that ballot count.
Justice Stephen Breyer, a President Clinton appointee, dissented but specifically acknowledged the marked differences between Indiana’s and Georgia’s photo identification requirement:
“By way of contrast, two other States – Florida and Georgia – have put into practice photo ID requirements significantly less restrictive than Indiana’s…Georgia restricts voters to a more limited list of acceptable photo IDs than does Florida, but accepts in addition to proof of voter registration a broader range of underlying documentation than does Indiana.”
Justice Breyer also cited U.S. District Court Judge Harold Murphy’s 2007 ruling upholding Georgia’s photo identification requirement and praising the State’s outreach and education program:
“Moreover, a Federal District Court found that Georgia ‘has undertaken a serious, concerted effort to notify voters who may lack Photo ID cards of the Photo ID requirement, to inform those voters of the availability of free [State-issued] Photo ID cards or free Voter ID cards, to instruct the voters concerning how to obtain the cards, and to advise the voters that they can vote absentee by mail without a Photo ID.’”
In the span of the last year, the Georgia Supreme Court dismissed the state court challenge because there was no proof that any voter was harmed by the voter ID law. U.S. District Court Judge Murphy also upheld the law, concluding that there was no proof any voter was harmed, that free voter IDs were and are readily available, and that the Georgia Secretary of State Office’s multi-phase outreach and education effort had resolved any complaints related to lack of education about how to get a photo ID. Even a U.S. Supreme Court Justice who voted to strike down Indiana’s law lauded the Georgia law.
The DPG’s lawsuit reads as if none of these rulings exist. The DPG complains that Georgia’s photo identification requirement means the Georgia Democratic Party must expend its resources to resolve three problems that the DPG imagines to exist: “identifying those of its supporters who are affected by the Act, assisting those supporters in obtaining Photo IDs and getting to the polls those of its supporters who would otherwise be discouraged by the new law from voting.” Try as they might, these same lawyers have been unable to identify – in over three years and three separate cases – any person with any of these difficulties.
By now, some may question whether this is even about the voter ID law any longer. Are the opponents of the ID law more concerned with the law itself or are they trying to put into place a mechanism to challenge the legitimacy of an unfavorable election result? After all, these same opponents have failed to produce a single adversely affected voter out of the millions who have cast votes with the law in effect.
A 2005 study by political scientists at the University of Miami and California State University – Northridge may shed some light onto the real motivations of the law’s opponents. The professors found that since the 2000 presidential election, pre-election litigation has essentially become a presidential election strategy. Prior to the 2000 presidential election, 48 cases were filed in state and federal courts, mostly by smaller political parties to secure ballot access for their candidates. Prior to the 2004 presidential election, 114 cases were filed in state and federal courts.
Most of the cases filed in 2004 focused on voter access and registration issues, such as automatic restoration of felons’ right to vote. The challenge to voter ID laws is simply the next step in this strategy, and the DPG seems intent on continuing its quest to disrupt Georgia’s elections process through any means available and at considerable cost to Georgia’s taxpayers.
The opponents of Georgia’s photo ID requirement have now lost in the Georgia Supreme Court and the U.S. District Court. In upholding the Indiana law, the U.S. Supreme Court even commented favorably on Georgia’s law. As Georgians, we know that the right to vote is too precious and too hard-fought to tolerate vote dilution and election fraud. We will not stand idly by as opponents of this common-sense law seek to undermine our vote and our elections through their pursuit of frivolous litigation. Georgians can be assured that this Secretary of State will continue to fight for Georgia’s photo ID requirement – and its implementation in this year’s elections – because I have sworn to protect our voters and the integrity of our elections.
Karen C. Handel
Georgia Secretary of State