How will Georgia Respond to Supreme Court Voter Identification Decision?

“The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men.” Lyndon B. Johnson



Today, states and the Supreme Court continue to grapple with Johnson’s words on the eve of the Voting Rights Act he would later sign. The Supreme Court struck down a voter registration law in Arizona that has implications for other states, including Georgia. On Monday, in a 7-2 decision the court ruled that Arizona could not add requirements beyond what the federal form already requires for residents to register to vote. Proposition 200 was passed in 2004 when Arizona voters decided they wanted their voting registration requirements to exceed those of the federal government. The Brennan Center for Justice has reported that the Arizona law has rejected 30,000 voter applications. States other than Georgia with similar stipulations are Kansas, Alabama and Tennessee.

In 1993 Congress approved the National Voter Registration Act to simplify the voter registration process, which included the federal form. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the majority opinion that prevented states from requiring additional information, “beyond that required by the Federal Form.” The caveat which no doubt opened the window to challenge the ruling was that states could deny registration if they had information that an applicant was ineligible.

Georgia’s Secretary of State Brian Kemp was quoted in an Associated Press story as having said, “Ronald Reagan said, ‘Trust, but verify.’ This is exactly what Georgia’s voter registration laws provide for.” He continued that he would work with Governor Nathan Deal, Attorney General Sam Olens and the Georgia Legislature to determine the impact on Georgia’s law.

Oklahoma requires those registering to take an oath and be subject to perjury if they falsify their information but it does not require additional information. In Oklahoma lying on your voter registration document is a felony. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach reported said that Kansas will continue to require new voters to show proof of citizenship despite the Supreme Court ruling.

No matter what Georgia’s response to the Supreme Court decision is, civil rights advocates have challenged voter identification laws as more obstacles to full voter participation. If it looks like voter suppression then it probably is.