This is a very long entry but well worth the read and I know the readers of Peach Pundit are up to the challenge. The language below is not mine but excerpts from the decision of U.S. District Judge Harold Murphy in the case of Common Cause/Georgia v. Billups, 504 5. Supp. 2d 1333 (2007), which found in favor of the State of Georgia on its voter identification law.
The plaintiff’s lawyers in this case against the State of Georgia were a who’s who of prominent Democratic and liberal attorneys in Georgia including Emmet Bondurant, Jason Carter and Gerald Weber among others. The action was fashioned against not only the State of Georgia but also the Floyd County registrar so that it would be heard in front of Judge Murphy, a preeminent trial judge appointed by President Jimmy Carter and a member of the prominent Democratic Murphy family in west Georgia. The plaintiffs had over a year and a half to collect evidence of so called discrimination.
In politics, everyone is entitled to their own opinions but no one is entitled to their own facts. Below are the facts and opinions of Judge Murphy who found no evidence of racial discrimination in Georgia’s voter identification law.
Representative Edward Lindsey (R-Atlanta)
Georgia House Majority Whip
Portions of the Judge Murphy’s opinion:
Election laws will invariably impose some burden upon individual voters. Each provision of a code, “whether it governs the registration and qualifications of voters, the selection and eligibility of candidates, or the voting process itself, inevitably affects—at least to some degree—the individual’s right to vote and his right to associate with others for political ends. Consequently, to subject every voting regulation to strict scrutiny and to require that the regulation be narrowly tailored to advance a compelling state interest, as petitioner suggests, would tie the hands of States seeking to assure that elections are operated equitably and efficiently.” Accordingly, the mere fact that a State’s system “creates barriers … tending to limit the field of candidates from which voters might choose … does not of itself compel close scrutiny.”
Instead, … a more flexible standard applies. A court considering a challenge to a state election law must weigh “the character and magnitude of the asserted injury to the rights protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments that the plaintiff seeks to vindicate” against “the precise interests put forward by the *1377 State as justifications for the burden imposed by its rule,” taking into consideration “the extent to which those interests make it necessary to burden the plaintiff’s rights.”
Under this standard, the rigorousness of our inquiry into the propriety of a state election law depends upon the extent to which a challenged regulation burdens First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Thus, as we have recognized when those rights are subjected to “severe” restrictions, the regulation must be “narrowly drawn to advance a state interest of compelling importance.” But when a state election law provision imposes only “reasonable, nondiscriminatory restrictions” upon the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of voters, “the State’s most important regulatory interests are generally sufficient to justify” the restrictions.
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. . . the Court finds that Plaintiffs simply have failed to prove that the character and magnitude of the asserted injury to the right to vote is significant. Although Plaintiffs contended at the preliminary injunction hearings that many voters who do not have driver’s licenses, passports, or other forms of photographic identification have no transportation to a voter registrar’s office or DDS service center, have impairments that preclude them from waiting in often-lengthy lines to obtain Voter ID cards or Photo ID cards, or cannot travel to a registrar’s office or a DDS service center during those locations’ usual hours of operation because the voters do not have transportation available, Plaintiffs failed to produce admissible evidence to that effect at trial. Indeed, the two named Plaintiffs both testified that they could and would travel to their local registrars’ office to obtain a Photo ID card if the Court upheld the 2006 Photo ID Act, and their testimony, contrary to Plaintiffs’ arguments, did not establish that either of the two named Plaintiffs would suffer an undue burden from traveling to the local registrar’s office to obtain a Photo ID card. In particular, although the two named Plaintiffs testified that their children would have to take time off from work to take them to the registrar’s office, the testimony in the record demonstrates that the two named Plaintiffs’ children regularly take the two named Plaintiffs places, and that transportation may be available from other sources, including rides from friends. Additionally, although Plaintiff Bertha B. Young stated that her bus ride to the registrar’s office would take one hour each way, she also testified that her friends could drive her, and it appears from the record that her friends and employer regularly transport her.
Similarly, Mr. Dewberry testified that he could walk one-quarter of a mile to the registrar’s office to obtain a Voter ID card, and stated that obtaining a Voter ID card would not be a significant hardship for him. Consequently, the Court cannot find *1378 that the Photo ID requirement is unduly burdensome for Mr. Dewberry.
Likewise, Annie Johnson testified that she goes to Americus at least once a month, that her friends or family members drive her there, and that she would obtain a Voter ID card the next time she went to Americus. This testimony fails to support Plaintiffs’ contention that requiring Ms. Johnson to obtain a Voter ID card would unduly burden her right to vote.
Further, although Plaintiffs contended at the preliminary injunction hearing that many voters who lack an acceptable Photo ID for in-person voting are elderly, infirm, or poor, and lack reliable transportation to a DDS service center or a county registrar’s office, the evidence in the record fails to support that contention. Even if the Court accepted Dr. Hood’s testimony indicating that a higher percentage of the individuals who appear on the DDS no-match lists are elderly, or are African–American or other minorities, the testimony in the record established that the large numbers reported on the DDS no-match list were far from reliable.FN6 Additionally, as previously noted, Plaintiffs proffered precious little admissible evidence showing that voters who lacked Photo ID had no transportation to a DDS office or a county registrar’s office. Further, even if a voter’s name appears on a DDS no-match list, the voter still may have some other form of acceptable Photo ID, and neither Dr. Hood’s analysis nor the DDS no-match list purported to address that issue. Plaintiffs thus simply have not satisfied their burden of proving that the 2006 Photo ID Act unduly burdens minority or elderly voters.
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At the trial, . . . , the evidence revealed that the State made exceptional efforts to contact voters who potentially lacked a valid form of Photo ID issued by the DDS and who resided in the twenty-three counties that planned to hold September 18, 2007, elections, and to inform those voters of the availability of a Voter ID card, where to obtain additional information, and the possibility of voting absentee without a Photo ID.FN7 The evidence in the record indicates that the State also provided information to voters in general by advertising on the Clear Channel radio network, and by partnering with libraries *1379 and nongovernmental organizations. Additionally, the Photo ID requirement has been the subject of many news reports, editorials, and news articles. Under those circumstances, Plaintiffs are hard-pressed to show that voters in Georgia, in general, are not aware of the Photo ID requirement.
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Additionally, individuals who do not have an acceptable Photo ID for in-person voting can obtain an absentee ballot and vote absentee by mail without providing an excuse. Although Plaintiffs contend that the average Georgia voter cannot read and understand the absentee ballot request form, there is no requirement that a voter complete that form. Instead, a voter need only write his name, address, and date of birth on a piece of paper, indicate in which election he wishes to vote absentee, and mail the piece of paper to his registrar. If he cannot do this, or if he cannot complete the absentee ballot request form, he can obtain assistance from a family member. Similarly, if the voter cannot read and complete the absentee ballot, a family member can help him. The State thus has not, as Plaintiffs contend, completely barred voters who lack Photo ID from voting.
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Despite apocalyptic assertions of wholesale voter disenfranchisement, Plaintiffs have produced not a single piece of evidence of any identifiable registered voter who would be prevented from voting pursuant to [the 2006 Photo ID Act] because of his or her inability to obtain the necessary photo identification. Similarly, Plaintiffs have failed to produce any evidence of any individual … who would undergo any appreciable hardship to obtain photo identification in order to be qualified to vote.