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Judge Blocks Georgia Voter ID Law

The same federal judge who last year blocked enforcement of a law requiring Georgia voters to present picture IDs to go the polls on Wednesday also said a new law aimed at fixing constitutional problems in the old one cannot be used in next Tuesday’s primaries.

The U.S. Justice Department cleared a Republican-backed voter ID law June 28 requiring Georgians voting at the polls to present a driver’s license or other form of government-issued picture ID. The election board, over dissent by the lone Democrat member, decided the next day to require IDs in the July 18 primary, despite concerns about insufficient time for voter education.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
Supporters of the law, including sponsor Cecil Staton, a religious publisher elected to the state senate in 2004, say it is needed to stop voter fraud. Opponents, including the state’s black legislative caucus, say it discriminates against African Americans and the elderly.
 
U.S. District Court Judge Harold L. Murphy blocked an earlier version last year, saying it amounted to an unconstitutional poll tax. Lawmakers this year passed an amended version to make voter IDs free to anyone who needs them in all 159 counties.
 
This week Murphy issued an order also preventing enforcement of the new law, which he said violates the First and Fourteenth amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
 
The Georgia Supreme Court, meanwhile, upheld an unrelated restraining order in Fulton County Superior Court arguing the law also violates the state constitution.