Georgia Appeals Voter Photo ID Ruling

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Georgia's attorney general filed an emergency appeal Monday of a court order that blocks the state from enforcing its new voter photo identification law during next week's primary elections.

The new law requires that every voter who casts a ballot in person produce a valid, government-issued photo ID. Elections officials had already distributed several dozen of the new voter photo IDs to people, primarily seniors, who don't have a driver's license, passport or other qualifying photo ID.

Supporters say the ID requirement is needed to crack down on voter fraud. Opponents say it unfairly affects the poor, rural voters and minorities — people least likely to have a valid picture ID.

Attorney General Thurbert E. Baker filed the appeal in Georgia Supreme Court on behalf of Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue, said court spokesman Richard Diguette.

"We're pleased it's moving forward," Perdue spokesman Dan McLagan said of the appeal. "We can't for the life of us understand why the Democrats have been so hellbent on making it easier for dead people, felons and illegal immigrants to cast ballots in their primary."

The motion seeks to stay the temporary restraining order issued Friday by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Melvin Westmoreland.

In his sharply worded ruling, Westmoreland said the voter ID law "unduly burdens the fundamental right to vote rather than regulate it" and would cause "irreparable harm."

Former Gov. Roy Barnes had requested the restraining order, arguing before the judge Thursday that the law violates the state's constitution's guarantee of the right to vote.

Barnes was not immediately available for comment Monday morning. A spokeswoman, Lane McCraw, said Barnes and other lawyers in the case were studying Baker's motion.

"At this point, we feel it is without merit," McCraw said.

A federal challenge to the new law also is pending and arguments in that case are scheduled Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Rome.

Georgia's primary elections are set for July 18.

The Republican-led Legislature first adopted a voter ID law in 2005, but it was blocked by a federal judge who said it amounted to an unconstitutional poll tax. Early this year, lawmakers amended the law to make the IDs free.