Voters need ID for fed. primary

CONYERS - Local election officials said the Georgia's voter ID law has not created problems in past elections, and they plan to provide temporary, or "provisional" ballots to anyone unable to provide proper identification at the polling place this year.

Voter ID laws across the country have come under fire. In 2005, Georgia's law was challenged and enforcement of the law was stopped when it appeared people without a photo ID were provided no direction how to get one or request an absentee ballot. Georgia's voter ID law was upheld in September by U.S. District Court Judge Harold Murphy. Murphy ruled the law did not impose a significant burden on the right to vote and dismissed the suit brought by the NAACP, Common Cause of Georgia the League of Women Voters and other groups. He also found that the state had showed it took significant effort to educate the public on the voting laws and ID requirement.

Last week, U.S. Supreme Court justices heard arguments against Indiana's voter ID law, which is similar to Georgia's. Opponents argued that Indiana's requirement that voters provide copies of birth certificates to register to vote is overly cumbersome.

Also, critics say, requiring low-income voters to file an affidavit stating they can not afford a photo identification is a "double burden" on those voters.

The Supreme Court is expected to make a decision later this year.

In Georgia, voters are required to produce one of six forms of identification to vote in person: a driver's license, a state or federal issued photo ID card, U.S. passport, a government employee ID card, a military ID card or a tribal ID card.

Rockdale County Elections Supervisor Cynthia Welch said issuing provisional ballots to those without proper ID has not been a problem for her office. During the 2006 General Election, 42 provisional ballots were handed out and almost all of them were for people who may have gone to the wrong polling place or who did not have the proper identification.

Welch said she expects the number of provisional ballots cast this year will increase because of possible confusion from two new voting precincts: Bethel in the northern part of the county and Salem in the south.

In the past provisional ballots were provided as a last resort and only three were issued during the 2004 General Election, Welch said.

Welch has now instructed local poll workers to provide provisional ballots without question if a problem arises.

"We wanted to give the benefit of the doubt to the voter and give us a chance to resolve the issue in our office," Welch said. "If you do anything after the fact, you're just disenfranchising the voter."

The person filing a provisional ballot has until the Thursday after the day of the election to go to the Board of Elections office to provide proper form of identification or else the ballot is rejected.

In other election news, the Board of Elections office has mailed 94 absentee ballots as of Thursday. That total included 39 military and overseas-issued ballots.

Anyone can request a mail-in absentee ballot without providing a reason, but those ballots must be received by election officials by Election Day.

Residents can also cast an absentee ballot in person at the Board of Elections office at 1400 Parker Road through Feb. 1, but are required to provide a reason why the cannot vote on the day of the election.

As of Thursday, 26 absentee ballots had been cast for the Feb. 5 presidential primary election.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Jay Jones can be reached at jay.jones@rockdalecitizen.com.