Published October 01, 2005
"Georgia passed an absolutely obnoxious law," said former President Jimmy Carter, who lives in the Peach State. "It was specifically designed to prevent old people, poor people and African-Americans from voting," he said.
Carter co-chairs a private, bipartisan commission that last week recommended that every eligible voter in the United States receive a free, government photo ID card by 2010. He says Georgia's law is too restrictive.
The new policy in Georgia eliminates utility bills and employee badges as valid identification at the polls. Voters must now present a government-issued ID card such as a driver's license or passport.
Click in the video box to the right to watch a report by FOX News' Jonathan Serrie.
"It's as simple as the photo ID that's presented when one tries to get on an airplane or when you're renting a video at the local video store," said Republican state Sen. Bill Stephens.
Stephens says the new identification requirement is a common sense way of preventing voter fraud.
But Georgia charges its residents a $20 fee for obtaining a 5-year Georgia driver's license, and some feel that fee will deter low-income voters from getting a license that would enable them to vote.
"That's poll tax and both the Voting Rights Act and court rulings have said there can be no cost imposed for the right to vote," says long-time civil rights activist Joseph Lowery, of the Coalition for a People's Agenda (search).
"This is not a poll tax in any way," said Stephens, who also said IDs can be made available free of charge to people that need them.
Indeed a provision in the new law allows poor voters to receive free government ID cards. But the lawsuit claims the definition of "poor" is too vague. Critics also claim travel distances will deter elderly and disabled voters because only 56 of Georgia's 159 counties have facilities to issue the IDs.
Even Atlanta, the state's largest city, has no driver's license offices, forcing residents to travel to the suburbs.
But in a state where licensed drivers outnumber registered voters by more than 2 million, supporters of the new ID law insist apathy, not identification, is the biggest obstacle to voting.
Click in the video box near the top of the story to watch a report by FOX News' Jonathan Serrie.