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Despite voter ID law, minority turnout up in Georgia

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A Timeline of Georgia’s Voter ID Law

April 2005: Gov. Sonny Perdue signs a law requiring Georgia voters to present a valid, state-issued photo ID to cast an in-person ballot. The bill passed in the state Legislature along a largely party-line vote. Previously, voters in Georgia had been able to present one of 17 forms of ID to vote, including some without photos, such as utility bills.

August 2005: The U.S. Department of Justice OKs the law. (All changes affecting voting in the state are subject to federal review under the 1965 Voting Rights Act.) An internal memo later reveals that some staff attorneys raised concerns that the new law could dilute minority turnout.

September 2005: Opponents file a federal lawsuit claiming the law is unconstitutional, violating the Equal Protection Clause. They liken the requirement that voters pay a fee for a state-issued photo ID to Jim Crow-era poll taxes.

October 2005: U.S. District Court Judge Harold Murphy holds that Georgia’s voter ID law amounts to an unconstitutional poll tax and blocks its enforcement.

January 2006: The state Legislature adopts a new voter ID law that provides free state-issued photo identifications cards in all Georgia’s 159 counties. Gov. Perdue signs the new measure into law.

July 2006: Judge Murphy again blocks enforcement of law, saying it continues to discriminate against people who don’t have driver’s licenses, passports or other government IDs. But Murphy suggests that a meaningful education effort to explain the law to Georgians might change his mind.

June 2007: A separate state challenge to the law filed by former Gov. Roy Barnes is dismissed by the Georgia Supreme Court, which finds that the plaintiff, Rosalind Lake, lacks standing to bring the lawsuit.

August 2007: Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel launches an outreach effort to educate voters about the photo ID law and ways for citizens to obtain a free photo ID.

September 2007: Judge Murphy finds that the law passes constitutional muster. The law takes effect for the first time in municipal elections in 23 Georgia counties.

February 2008: The law faces its first statewide test in the state’s presidential preference primary.

April 2008: The U.S. Supreme Court in a 6-3 ruling upholds Indiana’s voter ID law, which is similar to Georgia’s. The ruling is seen as validation of photo ID laws generally.

December 2011-present: The U.S. Department of Justice blocks voter ID laws in South Carolina and Texas but OKs Virginia’s voter ID law. Legal challenges are pending against voter ID laws in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

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