Secretary Handel responds to an editorial by Cynthia Tucker, Editorial Page Editor, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
VOTER ID: Tucker has it wrong again on photo IDs
As a testament to the common-sense nature of the law, a rare but welcome coalition of liberal, moderate and originalist U.S. Supreme Court Justices found common ground last week and voted to uphold, by a 6-3 margin, the constitutionality of Indiana's law requiring voters to show photo identification when voting in person. The Supreme Court's ruling is a victory for voter protection and the integrity of the elections process in Indiana, Georgia and other states with similar photo identification requirements.
Unfortunately, the AJC's Cynthia Tucker took this opportunity to pen yet another fact-challenged rant against Georgia's photo identification requirement, a measure supported by 80 percent of Americans ("Partisan Supreme Court errs on strict voter ID laws," @issue, April 30).
First, Tucker argues against photo identification laws by stating, "The fact that a group of wealthy male jurists favors suppression of the franchise hardly makes it right."
If "wealthy male jurists" are working to suppress voter turnout, they are doing a terrible job.
This year's Georgia presidential primary, the first statewide election conducted under our photo identification requirement, featured record voter turnout. Nearly 45 percent of active registered voters cast more than 2 million votes; more than 1 million more votes than were cast in the 1988 primary that featured 43 percent turnout.
Next, Tucker accuses Republican-controlled state legislatures of actively attempting to suppress voter turnout among racial minorities. Again, Tucker is not dissuaded by the facts. Over 97,300 more votes were cast in Georgia's February presidential primary for Democratic candidates than Republican candidates, and a higher percentage of black voters turned out to vote than did white voters.
Fifty-two percent of black women and 43 percent of black men cast ballots in the primary, compared to 45 percent of white women and 45 percent of white men.
Tucker then wrote, "If Republicans were sincere about preventing voter fraud, they would tighten requirements for absentee ballots, where most vote fraud occurs."
In fact, my office has worked closely with the Georgia General Assembly to strengthen the handling and security of absentee ballots. Last year, we increased the penalty for absentee ballot fraud to a felony, the same as in-person voting fraud.
Tucker continued, "GOP-dominated state Legislatures, including Georgia's, have done precious little to change the rules for voting in absentia. That's because those who request absentee ballots are more likely to vote for Republican candidates, which makes that sort of fraud just fine."
In the 2008 presidential primaries, Georgia voters requested 24,136 Democratic absentee ballots by mail, compared to 20,944 Republican absentee ballots.
So much for the Republican advantage.
The traditionally liberal Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in his majority opinion that Indiana's photo identification law —- which is in fact stricter than Georgia's law —- is "justified by the valid interest in protecting the integrity and reliability of the electoral process."
Fortunately for all of us, the Supreme Court saw through the hyperbole and empty rhetoric and saw the photo identification law for what it is: a common sense measure to protect the integrity of our elections.