'Partisan bullying' unfounded in state photo ID requirement
Last week, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Tom Campbell denied the Democratic Party of Georgia's motion for a temporary restraining order to bar the further use of photo ID in our general primary election, in which more than 90,000 voters had already cast ballots in person with photo ID. In the past year, the Georgia Supreme Court, the U.S. District Court in Rome and the U.S. Supreme Court also rejected attacks on the constitutionality of the photo ID requirement.
Still, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's editorial board used Campbell's ruling to resume the mantra that Georgia's photo ID law is "partisan bullying" ("Fettered franchise," @issue, July 14). The editorial consists only of the litany of now-threadbare —- and completely rebutted —- arguments against this common-sense safeguard to protect Georgians' votes.
The tirade cannot obscure one undeniable fact: Opponents of photo ID have failed to produce even one voter who has been harmed by the requirement, despite nearly three years of scouring the state in search of such an individual. Further, our state's photo ID law allows voters who arrive at the polls without ID an extra 48 hours to obtain a free photo ID card, and return to their county registrar's office to have their vote counted. Voters can also choose to cast an absentee ballot by mail without a photo ID. Even U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, who dissented in the recent decision upholding Indiana's photo ID law, hailed these positive differences in the Georgia law.
On July 17, the AJC published a column, "Late legal hassle confuses the vote," criticizing my disqualification of Public Service Commission candidate Jim Powell. Unfortunately for the AJC's readers, the column contains numerous errors regarding Georgia law and the role of the secretary of state's office in determining a candidate's qualification to seek public office. Here are the facts:
Georgia law allows any citizen who is eligible to vote in a particular election or the secretary of state the right to file a complaint challenging the qualifications of any candidate to seek and hold that office. The secretary of state receives these complaints, notifies the candidate that a complaint has been filed, and requests a hearing before an administrative law judge of the Office of State Administrative Hearings. Following the hearing, the administrative law judge provides his or her initial findings to the secretary of state along with the evidence and hearing transcripts.
The secretary of state then has a statutory obligation to conduct a comprehensive review of the findings, evidence and hearing transcripts before making a final determination as to whether the candidate is qualified for office as provided by Georgia law. The secretary of state then issues a final decision on the matter.
After conducting a thorough review of the residency challenge, evidence, hearing transcripts and findings of fact, I issued an order disqualifying Powell as a candidate for PSC, District 4. The decision was based solely on Georgia law, which requires candidates for the PSC to reside in their district for at least 12 months prior to the election. Contrary to Powell's claims, our office notified Powell and his attorney of record less than 24 hours after my decision was entered.
As secretary of state, I rely on the facts and the law in making decisions, and that's exactly what I did in this situation. As a newspaper, the AJC should do the same in writing its editorials.