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Voter ID laws still a source of controversy

Fraud remains a concern despite few complaints

POSTED: June 30, 2014 12:39 a.m.

Have voter identification laws helped stamp out fraud and other polling irregularities, or were there never such problems to begin with?

This is the question at the heart of an ongoing debate about the state of elections in modern America.

On one side are those who fear the prevalence of voter fraud has tilted elections and corrupted the most sacrosanct of democratic institutions.

Then there are those who claim voter fraud is nothing but a myth, the relatively few examples acting only as exceptions that prove the rule.

Then there are the more onerous aspects of the issue, namely charges of racial bias and political opportunism from both sides of the argument.

During the May 20 primary, the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office received about 100 complaints alleging voter fraud and other election mishaps.

Of this number, only about 25 percent were actively investigated, said Jared Thomas, spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office.

For those individuals convinced voter fraud is a scourge that warrants strict identification laws, the lack of voter fraud investigations and prosecutions could be seen as evidence in their favor.

But the same appears true for opponents of voter identification laws.

A study released this month by the Brennan Center for Justice, a branch of the New York University School of Law, reveals just how partisan the issue of voter fraud has become.

For example, the center reports 18 of 22 states with new voter laws, including Georgia, have entirely Republican-controlled legislative and executive branches.

Voter ID laws have gained more traction since the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last year that stripped the Voting Rights Act of language requiring states with a history of racially discriminatory voting practices to notify federal authorities about any changes in election laws.

The Brennan Center reports nine of 15 states covered by the Voting Rights Act, including Georgia, have new voter restrictions in place since the 2010 election.

Moreover, seven of the 11 states with the highest African-American turnout in 2008, including Georgia, have new voter restrictions in place.

There were no reports of voter fraud in Hall County during the May primary, according to Elections Director Charlotte Sosebee.

There were, however, 25 provisional ballots cast, with 14 later being certified and accepted.

Most voters who cast provisional ballots did so because they showed up at the wrong precinct.

But two individuals cast provisional ballots when they did not provide identification at the polls. They were given 72 hours to show up at the county elections office with a valid ID in order to have their vote counted, but neither did.

Just one of the 14 provisional ballots denied was related to a nonregistered voter trying to cast a ballot.

This would likely qualify as attempted voter fraud, though it’s not clear this was the intention.


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