Georgia officials missing the point

by Usman Ahmed // Published July 14, 2006
A recent law requiring voters to show specific government approved ID at the polls was passed by Georgia legislature and has now become national news. Superior Court Judge Melvin Westmoreland put a temporary restraining order on the bill claiming that it violated citizens guaranteed right to vote. Attorney General Thurbert E. Baker then filed a motion to lift the restraining order before the July 18th Primary Elections. The two sides of the debate are misinformed and are arguing their points more for partisan reasons than actual election concerns.

Judge Westmoreland got the idea for his decision from former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes who claimed that the law violated Georgia's guaranteed right to vote law. This would be an excellent criticism, if only the right to vote law existed! There is no state or federal law in place that affirmatively guarantees every human being the right to vote. This point was driven home all to well in Florida in the 2000 election when disenfranchised voters remained that way because the Supreme Court could not guarantee their right to vote.

On the other side you have Attorney General Baker arguing for a law that will do little more than disenfranchise voters. He claims that the law is designed to protect against voter fraud including deceased, felon, or illegal voters. The law also prevents those without a driver"s license or other valid ID, mostly poor people, from voting. The law does not however apply to absentee ballots, so voter fraud can still be easily carried out.

Both of these solutions are wrapped in partisan politics and lose sight of the goal of providing citizens with better voting rights. The only solution that is feasible is to have a set of uniform standards put in place by congress. These standards should guarantee the right to vote for every U.S. citizen. The standards must also apply to voter ID laws, which if in place, must be overseen by the federal government. No eligible voter should ever be turned away simply because of a voter ID error.

The Right to Vote movement can and should be supported by both sides of the partisan coin. The movement will hold all elections to uniform standards and give voters an opportunity to have a smooth election.

Update: The matter was temporarily decided when U.S. District Court Judge Harold Murphy deemed that the Voter ID law violated the first amendment. Yet, this decision will only hold throughout this year"s election cycle and will again be brought up in two years. Again showing that our government is only interested in putting bandages on election problems, rather than solving them completely.