Published Monday, October 20, 2008

Three-judge panel to hear arguments in Georgia voter ID lawsuit

By Brenda Pedraza-Vidamour

The Newnan Times-Herald

A three-judge panel is scheduled to hear arguments in Atlanta on Wednesday from voting rights groups who are trying to stop Georgia election officials from screening the identities and citizenship of new voters through state databases.

The claims in the Morales vs. Handel lawsuit -- one of several suits filed against Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel on voter registration issues -- was initially heard by U.S. District Judge Jack Camp in Newnan on Oct. 10 when the voting rights groups asked the court to stop the state's ID and citizenship checks of its newly registered voters.

Last Thursday, Camp allowed the state to continue using the databases, but cautioned his ruling doesn't preclude him from granting the group's request for an injunction in the future.

Per court documents, Camp noted the issue was not whether the state's procedure of matching voter IDs and citizenship against driver license and Social Security databases was appropriate, but whether the state's implementation of the Help America Vote Act was actually a change in voting procedures. Voting procedure changes fall under the purview of the Voting Rights Act and the National Voter Registration Act, and any changes have to be pre-cleared by the U.S. Department of Justice.

As required by law, complaints have to heard by a three-judge court. The state and the plaintiff in this case will present their arguments to the judges at 10 a.m. on Wednesday at the U.S. District Courthouse on Spring Street in Atlanta.

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