New Poll Tax in Georgia

Excellent editorial from The New York Times. (Here's EPIC's comments on the issue.)

The ID solves a problem that doesn't exist.

Posted on September 19, 2005 at 12:31 PM • 39 Comments

Comments

Gorgeous GeorgeSeptember 19, 2005 12:57 PM

It's OK; with the RealID act, everyone will need a government issued ID to enter government controlled space, and increasingly, public transport.
So ID cards will be mandatory soon and used often, not just for voting. Sad, but that's what your reps voted for.

ZwackSeptember 19, 2005 1:32 PM

So, what's the news? :-)

Another idiotic piece of legislation that probably has a different reason behind it than the publically stated reason.

Would there be more outcry if they said "We want to stop poor people from voting?"

Z.

ShaneSeptember 19, 2005 3:00 PM

The Commission on Federal Election Reform just recommended that Voters should be required to present photo ID cards at the polls, and states should provide free cards to voters without driver's licenses. Plus these also of interest:
¶States, not local jurisdictions, should be in charge of voter registration, and state registration lists should be interconnected so voters could be purged automatically from the rolls in one state when they registered in another.

¶States should make registration and voting more convenient with innovations like mobile registration vans and voting by mail and on the Internet.

¶Electronic voting machines should make paper copies for auditing.

¶In presidential election years, after the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primaries, the other states should hold regional primaries and caucuses at monthly intervals in March, April, May and June, with the order rotated.

NickSeptember 19, 2005 3:20 PM

A problem definitely exists identifying individuals who are attempting to vote. In Florida, over 2000 individuals who were dead voted in 2004. In Georgia, many votes were cast by unauthorized individuals who registered someone other than themselves and then discouraged their target not to vote through mis-information or threats. In both of these cases, using a secure, RealID compliant, identification card, like a Driver's License or Voter Registration Card would help.

The cost of the voter registration cards is a little disheartening, I agree, but you can't say that more reliably identifying someone before they vote would not solve ANY existing problems. In this case, "investigation and emergency response" doesn't apply.

Fred F.September 19, 2005 3:21 PM

Well, it could be done like other countries. When you are old enough to vote, you get you get to go to dark, unmaintained government office where you are fingerprinted and your picture taken from the front and side with your voter registration number under (just think of a jail mug shot) and you are then issued your voter registration. When you go vote you have to show that piece of identification. Of course, registration is mandatory and so is voting. If you don't have proof of having voted in the previous election then you are refused all government benefits (I think you still have to pay taxes). :)

JarrodSeptember 19, 2005 3:25 PM

According to the Georgia voter information website, the following rules apply to identification at the polling site:

"Voters are required to present identification at their polling place prior to casting their ballot. Proper identification shall consist of any one of the following:

(1) A Georgia driver’s license which was properly issued by the appropriate state agency;

(2) A valid identification card issued by a branch, department, agency, or entity of the State of Georgia, any other state, or the United States authorized by law to issue personal identification, provided that such identification card contains a photograph of the elector;

(3) A valid United States passport;

(4) A valid employee identification card containing a photograph of the elector and issued by any branch, department, agency, or entity of the United States government, this state, or any county, municipality, board, authority, or other entity of this state;

(5) A valid United States military identification card, provided that such identification card contains a photograph of the elector; or

(6) A valid tribal identification card containing a photograph of the elector."

This is based on Georgia Code Section 21-2-417 (which does not appear to have been updated at the main Georgia Code site).

In addition, Section 40-5-103 was amended to include the following:

"(d) The department shall not be authorized to collect a fee for an identification card from any person:

(1) Who swears under oath that he or she is indigent and cannot pay the fee for an identification card, that he or she desires an identification card in order to vote in a primary or election in Georgia, and that he or she does not have any other form of identification that is acceptable under Code Section 21-2-417 for identification at the polls in order to vote; and

(2) Who produces evidence that he or she is registered to vote in Georgia.

This subsection shall not apply to a person who has been issued a driver�?s license in this state."

Both of these provisions (among others) were passed in HB244. While the suit apparently claims that the definition of 'indigent' is vague, it looks to me like all someone has to do is claim that they're indigent and unable to pay (unless it's for a driver's license) and then the fee will be waived. There's also the claim that this doesn't factor in the cost of traveling to a location to get a photo ID, but how significant a burden is this?

More importantly, is there any circumstance in which the requirement to show a photo ID would not be considered a poll tax?

Bruce SchneierSeptember 19, 2005 3:39 PM

"More importantly, is there any circumstance in which the requirement to show a photo ID would not be considered a poll tax?"

Of course. If the photo ID that must be shown is both free and easy to obtain.

The issue isn't the photo ID. The issue is the cost and difficulty in getting one.

Chris WalshSeptember 19, 2005 4:00 PM

Tom Daschle's dissenting view, in the FERC report cited above by Shane includes this:


"REAL ID is a driver's license, not a citizenship or a voting card. The Report notes that 12% of the voting age population lack a driver's license. While it recommends that States provide an alternative photo voting card to non-drivers free of charge, States are likely to require the same documentation that is required of drivers.

The documents required by REAL ID to secure a driver's license and consequently a photo ID to vote under this recommendation, include a birth certificate, passport or naturalization papers, a photo identity document, and proof of Social Security number. Obtaining such documents can be difficult, even for those not displaced by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. For some, the Commission's ID proposal constitutes nothing short of a modern day poll tax"


On paper, the recommendations of FERC seem to be a step in the right direction (away from what GA has done and now wants to do again). As such recommendations are likely to be implemented by the States, however, the story may be quite different. If history is any guide, the burden which states like, say, Minnesota put on poor people will be vastly different from that imposed by, say, Mississippi.

John HenrySeptember 19, 2005 4:12 PM

I've been following this story and fail to see what the hoorah is all about. First, I am amazed that one can vote without having to prove that one is who they say they are. If I can just show up, say "Hi, I'm John Henry. Give me a ballot" how would they know that I am actually John Henry?

Second, I do not see what the problem with issuing a *free* voter ID card is. I do see the problem with the Georgia mechanism and do object to it since some people may not be able to afford ID.But I still like the idea of positive voter ID. I fail to see how there can be a legitimate democratic process without knowing who is voting.

Puerto Rico is part of the US and subject to all parts of the Constitution just like Georgia. We have voter ID cards. Each town or city has at least one State Election Commission office. To get a card, all one has to do is show up, prove identity (and there is a mechanism for those with no drivers license or the like) and a pretty snappy, counterfeit resistant card is issued on the spot. There is no charge nor is there a charge for replacement if lost. This card may be used *only* for voting and registration purposes. It is illegal for anyone else to ask to see it or to accept it for check cashing or any other purpose. This includes government offices.

I think, but might be wrong, that it is illegal for me to show it for any other purpose. That is, if I am asked for it to cash a check, say, the asker is acting illegally. If I show it, I am acting illegally as well and subject to fines, penalties etc.

While we have some pretty contentious elections here we have a very high turnout (usually in the 80-90% range) of a highly registered population. We also have very little election fraud or charges of illegal voting.

If one shows up at the poll and finds one is not on the list, the card guarantees that one can vote. The ballot is sealed in an envelope until it is determined which polling place it is to be counted for.

I think identifying voters is a real problem and I think a voter ID card, issued free, goes a long way to solving it.

I've voted in every election here since 1976, FWIW.

John Henry

John HenrySeptember 19, 2005 4:18 PM

BTW:

Although I am 100% behind the idea of voter ID cards as I described above, I am vehemently opposed to any national "required carry" ID card.

The voter ID card, as used here, is for a limited and specific purpose.

John Henry

roenigkSeptember 19, 2005 5:05 PM

Let's pass a law only requiring photo ID's of people that plan to vote multiple times in multiple precincts, people casting ballots on behalf of corpses and all family pets that will be voting. The other 90% of the public then won't be bothered.

Jim JohnsonSeptember 19, 2005 5:08 PM

Could we outsource identification to Blockbuster Video? People don't seem mind proving who they are when they rent a $2 DVD. If they believe voting is more important than that a photo ID shouldn't be an issue.

DMSeptember 19, 2005 5:20 PM

The United States doesnt need a tax on voting, what it and its democracy really need is a tax on not voting.

Davi OttenheimerSeptember 19, 2005 7:00 PM

This law should go into the legal doghouse.

The EPIC comments clearly explains how the law not only fails miserably to meet its stated purpose (prevent fraud and achieve compliance with the Help America Vote Act of 2002), but that it actually does serious and predictible harm to voter's rights:

"voting and privacy work in tandem: the latter gives meaning to the former"

It's not a criticism of identification, just a clear analysis of why this law is poorly written and unable to stop fraud. But beyond the simple failure of the law to meet its own goals, I wonder about the point that the poor and minorities will be negatively impacted.

For example, an interesting discussion concerns the author, Sue Burmeister, who is regarded as a friendly face that right wing extremists are using to carry an "agenda that has little regard for minorities and the poor" through the Georgia House:

http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/legis05/...

"'I think that she has been selected for that role partly because they think she can deflect some of the harsh criticism, or the criticism won't be as harsh,' said Larry Pellegrini of the Georgia Rural Urban Summit, which represents a broad range of interests including labor, civil rights, poverty and women's issues. 'Several of the proposals . . . she hasn't been able to explain how they work and it appears to me she's carrying water for someone else.'"

So, does an extreme-right caucus in Georgia have a hidden objective for the ID law (denying voting access), or are they just so far out in faith-based initiatives (removed from reality) that they have saddled up their effeminate workhorse and she is now blithely cranking out radical changes, completely unaware of the difference between bad laws and good?

EPIC's review shows why this is a very bad law in a rational world, but perhaps most shocking is that Burmeister doesn't seem to understand why anyone would object even at the most basic humanitarian level:

http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/040205/...

"she was caught off-guard by the backlash from the voter identification bill that became a lightning rod for black legislators who said the changes would disenfranchise minority voters across the state"

And I find that hard to believe. I mean how exactly does a politician gain credibility -- enough to pass laws -- by showing little grasp of the issues and then claiming no sense of what might happen. Is it all just an extreme work ethic and blind faith that pays off, or is some amount of thinking required?

JojoSeptember 19, 2005 9:31 PM

Don't you have to pay for a driver's license, passport or almost any other form of ID that I can think of? $20 isn't a lot of money these days. Hell, I'll bet that many of these "poor" people spend more than that on lottery tickets, cigarettes or alcohol weekly, if not daily!

This molehill doesn't deserve to be made into a mountain. There are more important issues to spend time and energy on. Sheese.

Davi OttenheimerSeptember 19, 2005 11:06 PM

"This molehill doesn't deserve to be made into a mountain."

Oh, how I wish that were true, but when you set aside your harsh and prejudiced view of the "poor", and when you look past Burmeister's congenial wink and smile, you might start to understand why "when the House approved the bill, black lawmakers and some white Democrats left the chamber in protest."

EPIC explains that historically "voter registration was designed to deny suffrage to those groups that were deemed not to be worthy of equal participation in the democratic process. From generation to generation the list of the outcasts of American Democracy included women, new citizens, minorities, young adults, first time voters, poor people and immigrants."

The above is in reference to the legal opinion that Georgia has failed to demonstrate that their law will not harm the democratic process and directly violate the very federal laws it was supposed to comply with.

Moreover, "Georgia’s Secretary of State, the chief elections officer, said that Georgia House Bill 244 violates Article II, Section I, paragraph II of the Georgia Constitution".

And then there's the reference to "Burson v. Freeman, the Supreme Court described voter privacy as a means of
preventing voter fraud while ensuring against undue coercion."

Ian EiloartSeptember 20, 2005 5:37 AM

That's outrageous. In the UK, you don't need any ID to vote. When you register, you're sent a voting card which tells you when and where to vote, and it has your name and registration number on. However, you don't need to present the voting card in order to vote. You simply give your name and address, and you get crossed off the list. Provided you give a valid name and say you haven't voted already, you're allowed to vote - even if your name has been used already.

PhilSeptember 20, 2005 6:57 AM

>>I've been following this story and fail to see what the hoorah is all about. First, I am amazed that one can vote without having to prove that one is who they say they are. If I can just show up, say "Hi, I'm John Henry. Give me a ballot" how would they know that I am actually John Henry?

In Ohio, you have to sign the roster. The roster also carries a copy of the signature I gave when I registered to vote, and the poll worker compares the signatures.

Dimitris AndrakakisSeptember 20, 2005 7:23 AM

In Greece, an ID card is required for all adult (>=18) citizens. It was enforced in dark times (AFAIK it goes back to the German occupation of WW2, 1940-1944) but nobody has bothered to change this.

It serves as a general prove-who-you-are document, and is naturally used in the election process; your name and ID is listed somewhere (near your permanent residence, but you can change this if you want to). When you vote, you present the ID and your name is crossed off the list.

A recent improvement on the ID system was done 4-5 years ago, when "sensitive personal" information (IIRC religion, profession and marital status) was removed from the ID card.

Bruce SchneierSeptember 20, 2005 7:54 AM

"Let's pass a law only requiring photo ID's of people that plan to vote multiple times in multiple precincts, people casting ballots on behalf of corpses and all family pets that will be voting. The other 90% of the public then won't be bothered."

Turns out the number of people who vote multiple times, on behalf of dead people, blah blah blah is significantly less than 10%.

Were this a serious threat, I would be advocating security measures to counter it. But there isn't a real theat, and these "security" measures are basically voter supression tactics in disguise.

Why do you think Republicans favor them and Democrats oppose them? It's not a coincidence.

AllenSeptember 20, 2005 7:54 AM

Background for me: I lived in Ohio for 29 years and moved to Georgia last year before the election.
I am not poor, nor black.

Getting a drivers license transferred from Ohio to Georgia was the most difficult aspect of my move.
It's about a half hour drive from our house and we had to schedule an appointment to do the transfer.
Not having our birth certificates notarized required my wife and I to reschedule an appointment for two weeks later, when we would have all of our credentials.
The amount of time to process our transfer once all the paperwork was ready was 3 hours. There were many people who had been there before us and were still there
after we left, waiting to receive a new license.

The point?: Don't think that this is an easy process for anyone to get a state photo id/driver's license in Georgia. It is an ardous process and most everyone in the state knows about it and jokes about it. As far as I know, this was the easiest way for me to register to vote as well. I'm not sure I would have been able to register without going through all of that, unless I stumbled upon a voter registration booth somewhere at a public gathering. If I was poor, and had the choice between going to work or taking a day off to register to vote, I'd be at work.

I like the idea of having photo ID to vote, but the current implimentation in Georgia makes getting a valid photo ID extremely difficult. Provisions should have been made to make more locations available for citizens to register and have a photo ID.

It will be interesting to see the voter turnout ratios from the last election and the next in 2008.

Bruce SchneierSeptember 20, 2005 7:55 AM

"In Greece, an ID card is required for all adult (>=18) citizens. It was enforced in dark times (AFAIK it goes back to the German occupation of WW2, 1940-1944) but nobody has bothered to change this."

But I'll be that the ID card is issued to every citizen, for free, and that there is no need to register to vote beforehand. The ID card that everyone carries automatically conveys the right to vote.

JohnJSeptember 20, 2005 8:11 AM

@ Jojo; "Don't you have to pay for a driver's license, passport or almost any other form of ID that I can think of? "

In those cases you are paying for priviledges. Voting is a right.

AlexSeptember 20, 2005 9:28 AM

Hasn't this problem already been solved in the third world? When you vote, you dip your finger in a pot of indelible ink. This doesn't solve for non- citizen voting, but I believe that the real problem is multiple votes per "activist." It also doesn't cost millions of dollars.

A nice side benefit is a visible badge of having participated. Who knows it might even shame people into participating!

Chris WalshSeptember 20, 2005 9:46 AM

@DM:

You want a tax on not voting? Look at the current government.

To quote the eminent philosopher Geddy Lee, "when you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice". :^)

JarrodSeptember 20, 2005 11:35 AM

"Were this a serious threat, I would be advocating security measures to counter it. But there isn't a real theat, and these "security" measures are basically voter supression tactics in disguise.

Why do you think Republicans favor them and Democrats oppose them? It's not a coincidence."

I dearly hope that this statement merely *sounds* more partisan than it really is.

Security is not a Republican issue. It's not a Democrat issue. It's an issue for everyone, regardless of political affiliation, creed, race, status, or wealth. I seem to recall clearly hearing this same position from you.

"Turns out the number of people who vote multiple times, on behalf of dead people, blah blah blah is significantly less than 10%."

For the overall state, almost certainly. But what level is it at? If there's anything that we've learned in the last few years (Florida in 2000 and Washington in 2004) it's that every single vote is important, and a handful of votes can turn the tide of races with very wide impacts. If that handful of votes comes from those who should not be voting in the first place.

You mentioned above that "[t]he issue is the cost and difficulty in getting one." Presuming that the oath that I referenced above is enough to waive the fees, what would need to be done to satisfy the latter requirement?

another_bruceSeptember 20, 2005 12:14 PM

oregon is the most advanced state in the union. we have vote-by-mail here. they mail me a ballot, and i have the option of mailing it back or dropping it off. getting a driver license is easy too, i was astonished when i went to the dmv office and i was the only customer there, so they helped me right away, and new oregon drivers are also registered to vote right there on the spot.

Davi OttenheimerSeptember 20, 2005 12:16 PM

"Security is not a Republican issue. It's not a Democrat issue."

True, but passing a law that seriously disadvantages the historically Democratic group from access to polls...I agree with Bruce and you both. There's no coincidence to the partisan stand on this law, which is why it is clearly not good security.

JarrodSeptember 20, 2005 2:57 PM

Just because it's partisan doesn't mean it's necessarily bad security. The questions are whether the security issue that it is designed to address is real enough for an action such as this, and whether this adequately addresses that risk if it is. Voting is something intended for citizens of the country, and each person should be voting a single time.

Cost appears to have been addressed. The ease for people to get a valid form of identification is still a question. Georgia is spotted with dozens of small counties, but each one presumably has certain offices within it that handle state benefits. If some of these offices were also allowed to handle issuance of state identification cards, easing the trek for the poor or elderly, would that be sufficient?

Davi OttenheimerSeptember 20, 2005 3:16 PM

"Just because it's partisan doesn't mean it's necessarily bad security."

That is true as well, since it could just be coincidence. In this case however the partisan stand is directly related to the inability of the law to meet stated objectives, the lack of evidence supporting the claims used to justify the law, as well as the failure of the supporters of the law to prove a lack of harm to voters (as required).

Dimitris AndrakakisSeptember 21, 2005 3:51 AM

> But I'll be that the ID card is issued to every citizen, for free, and
> that there is no need to register to vote beforehand. The ID card that
> everyone carries automatically conveys the right to vote.

Indeed. You are, let's say, pre-registered when you are issued the ID card.

The only thing your have to pay for is a "ID-type" photo (I don't know what makes it special), which is about 8 euros.

Jeff CarrollSeptember 21, 2005 11:46 AM

@Allen, 7:54AM: I just moved to Alabama from Tennessee. This is the sixth state in which I have lived, and the fifth in which I have been a licensed driver. Ohio is not one of those states, so I'm not familiar with the process there, but if it's similar to Indiana's, you've been spoiled.

There are two driver's licensing facilities in metropolitan Nashville. Both are woefully understaffed and overcrowded, and typical turnaround, even for a replacement for a lost driver's license, is three hours.

Washington (in the Seattle area, anyway) and Virginia (in metro DC), although they have central licensing bureaucracies like Tennessee's, are both fairly reasonable about matching supply capacity to demand, and Washington appears to have changed the requirement that all new residents take road tests.

Alabama, like Indiana, administers driver's licensing at the county level; when I got here I was in and out within fifteen minutes. The only complication was that, in order to be issued a driver's license, you must present a Social Security card.

I hadn't had a SS card for about fifteen years; hadn't needed one. But they didn't care that I had a photo-bearing Tennessee DL, a valid photo-bearing passport, and a photo-bearing NASA badge; they wanted to see a SS card. So I had to wait for an hour at the local Social Security office to apply for a new one.

Summary: this is not just a Georgia problem. Nearly every state charges fees for driver's licenses or nondriver IDs, and even if they didn't many extract a significant toll from the citizen's workday. This is hardly likely to change, however; REAL ID is another unfunded mandate from Washington that will require even states that have just implemented large-scale overhauls to their driver licensing systems to reinvest.

DavidSeptember 21, 2005 12:10 PM

@Bruce "The ID solves a problem that doesn't exist."

Oh, it solves a problem that exists all right: all them poor black folks thinking they oughta be allowed to vote!

Joe BuckSeptember 22, 2005 12:09 PM

Republicans and their allies in the media regularly put out claims about people with multiple registrations, for example, people registered to vote in both New York and Florida. It's a phony issue. If you think otherwise, and you've ever moved from one state to another, did you contact the state you moved away from to get yourself removed from the voter rolls? No? Did you register to vote in your new state? Well, then you did just what hundreds of thousands of retirees did, when they moved from New York to Florida.

Joe BuckSeptember 22, 2005 12:11 PM

By the way, the Georgia law has nothing to do with fraud. The reason we know that is that it does not permit a waiver even in the case where an election judge knows the voter personally (which is commonly the case in rural towns, where both the election judges and the senior citizens who lack driver's licenses have lived in the same small town for 50 years or more).

The Democratic opposition attempted several amendments to add such exceptions, and all were rejected by the Republican majority. This gave away the game.

Jarrod FratesSeptember 22, 2005 11:33 PM

Why does someone personally vouching for another based on being acquainted give away some game? It's an end-run around the process of verifying the identity of a person. Everyone has to undergo the same process, or it's a potential violation of due process.

David JaoSeptember 24, 2005 2:41 PM

I think it is important to distinguish between two separate issues here. The first issue is whether identification should be required in order to vote (it already is in most cases), and the second issue is, if so, what forms of identification should be considered valid.

The new part of this law is not that it requires identification to vote, but that it requires a specific and burdensome form of identification that is in danger of becoming required for many other activities besides voting. I am against this law because it requires REAL ID of voters, but I am not against (and in fact strongly am in favor of) requiring voters to identify themselves before voting.

Bruce mentioned that existing ID requirements are already good enough that widespread voter fraud at polling booths is not a problem. (Absentee ballots are anothe issue altogether....) That observation argues well for keeping the status quo, where identification is required but multiple forms of ID are accepted, such as drivers license, bank statement, utility bill, etc.

If lawmakers were serious about stopping vote fraud, they would abolish absentee ballots, which can be corrupted by voter coercion even when used as intended. I know Oregon voters love the convenience, but I'm one of those old fashioned people who value integrity of the voting process above convenience. As Josh Benaloh pointed out to me, many people (e.g. Mormon wives) will absolutely vote differently if they are voting via absentee ballot with their husband in the room instead of in a polling booth. Making absentee ballots optional is not good enough -- people can be coerced into voting absentee if absentee voting is an option.

Tethered RoseSeptember 25, 2005 9:42 AM

Maybe if people weren't afraid of who they're voting for, it wouldn't have to be a secret in the first place.

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