“Reviving Jim Crow?”

That’s the hyperbolic title of a column by David Becker, a “voting rights” consultant, in today’s Washington Post. In his column, Becker writes

Any day now the Justice Department will render judgment on one of the single most discriminatory pieces of voting legislation of recent years: a Georgia state law requiring voters to present one of only six forms of photo identification before they can exercise their right to vote. Before enforcing this statute, Georgia must get Justice Department approval by proving that the law will not put minority voters in a worse position than they were in before the requirement was instituted.

The facts surrounding Georgia’s voter identification requirement cannot be disputed. Virtually every black legislator opposes the legislation, and most black lawmakers staged a walkout to protest its passage. Every major civil rights and minority advocacy group, including the NAACP, and many legal scholars, oppose the restriction; several have submitted comments to the Justice Department for consideration.

“Even Mexico has a photo ID requirement for voting”

I’d like to put a diplomatic gloss on Mr. Becker’s column, but it is utterly stupid. According to Becker, the law is “one of the single most discriminatory pieces of voting legislation” because “virtually every black legislator opposes the legislation” [Note: he cannot say “all black legislators” because in fact not all were opposed] and the NAACP “oppose the restriction.” That’s brilliant logic. Logic similar to the logic that says the war in Iraq is wrong because the anti-war movement says so.

Becker also cites how hard it is to get a photo ID in Georgia using the canard that “though the state has 159 counties, there are only 56 places in which residents can obtain a driver’s license.” Mr. Becker fails to mention that concurrent with the photo ID legislation, Georgia undertook reforms of how drivers licenses are obtained and has even set up a mobile station that can travel to you. Also, the photo ID law only requires a photo ID — it can be an expired drivers license.

What evidence does Mr. Becker have to suggestion this legislation has “a disproportionately negative impact on blacks and other minorities”? Becker writes

The Justice Department found as recently as a decade ago that blacks in Louisiana were four to five times less likely than whites to have photo IDs.

Well, why don’t we look at some numbers that are not ten years old. How about these facts:

  • A study by the Atlanta Journal in 2000, found that 5,412 dead people had voted in Georgia since 1980.
  • 6,675,100 voting-age Georgians had a state issued photo id. That’s 2,260,437 more than were registered to vote.
  • Fulton County recently received 2,456 voter registration applications that appeared to be fraudulent. According to Harry W. MacDougald of the Fulton Board of Elections, those registrations were discovered because the board sent letters to 8,112 applicants whose registration forms had missing information. Of those, the board got only 55 responses.
  • Between the primary and general election in 2004, Fulton County received 45,907 new registrations. When precinct cards were mailed to the addresses provided, 3,071 were returned as undeliverable. Of those, 921 people still managed to vote in November.
  • Georgia provides no paper trail for electronic voting. Once a vote is entered into the vote pool, it cannot be pulled back out.

Mr. Becker sees racism and discrimination where none exists. Photo ID requirements are widely popular as a common sense method to help stop voter fraud. Photo ID is required to now enter most federal buildings. Even Mexico has a photo ID requirement for voting — a requirement Vicente Fox credits with helping stamp out vote fraud to a degree that enabled his party to rise to power. Why shouldn’t the most sacred right of our democracy be protected as best we can against fraud?

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Erick Erickson

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1 Comment

  • You didn’t mention race when you tried to discredit the 1994 Louisianna study.

    If you have some data to suggest that blacks are not “four to five times less likely than whites to have photo IDs” I would be interested in seeing it.