On Monday, June 11th, the Georgia Supreme Court reversed a trial court decision that a Georgia law requiring photo ID for all voters, was unconstitutional. The court’s decision was unanimous, but not substantive. It was that the Plaintiff lacked standing to object to the law, and therefore the case was dismissed.
The subject of the constitutionality of the Georgia law remains open, however, because a preliminary injunction against the law has been granted in a separate, federal challenge to the law, which is still pending.
Opponents to voter ID laws, which in many cases include the ACLU, argue that requiring photo IDs will “disenfranchise minorities, the poor and the elderly.” These arguments have a tough time dealing with the practical fact that someone who wants to write a $20 check at the grocery store for milk, eggs and bread for breakfast, has to present valid, photo ID. And it is hard to argue that voting is less important than buying stuff for breakfast.
Most of the arguments in Georgia and other states against such laws claim that they amount to an “illegal poll tax.” States have responded to these claims by making the process free for those citizens who want a government-issued ID in lieu of a drivers license. The real reason why opponents dislike these laws is that honest drivers licenses with photos and proof of citizenship would go a long way toward shutting down voter fraud.
And the voter ID laws will be indirectly tightened up by a federal law requiring proof of citizenship for all US and state citizens to obtain state drivers licenses, with different designs and expiration laws for any legal aliens who also obtain drivers licenses. The combined effect of voter ID and license laws will be that voters in American elections would be almost entirely living, American citizens voting only once.
Similar voter ID laws have been upheld in Arizona by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and struck down by the state Supreme Court in Missouri. Since the question of “discrimination in voting laws is a First Amendment, federal issue, it is likely that a US Supreme Court decision will settle out all these cases, both state and federal.
As a 33-year practitioner in the US Supreme Court on First Amendment issues mostly, I predict that when that Court takes one of these cases, it will rule in favor of the law, as long as there is a mechanism such as a poverty affidavit by which the poorest people can obtain state photo IDs without charge.