updated 9/19/2006 6:27:07 PM ET 2006-09-19T22:27:07

A judge Tuesday struck down as unconstitutional the latest version of a new Georgia law requiring voters to show photo ID.

State Superior Court Judge T. Jackson Bedford Jr. ruled that the photo ID requirement deprives otherwise qualified voters of the right to cast a ballot and adds a new, unconstitutional condition to voting.

“Any attempt by the Legislature to require more than what is required by the express language of our Constitution cannot withstand judicial scrutiny,” he wrote.

The judge took issue with the burden placed on voters to prove their identity using photo ID. Even if voters are allowed to cast ballots without the required identification, they must return within 48 hours with photo IDs or their vote is forfeited.

Bedford noted that a photo ID is not required to register to vote in Georgia.

The case is expected to go to the Georgia Supreme Court before the Nov. 7 general election.

Russ Willard, a spokesman for the state attorney general’s office, said it would appeal “as quickly as possible.”

Protection against fraud
Supporters of the photo ID law, including Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue, have said it is needed to protect against voter fraud.

Opponents argue it disenfranchises poor, elderly and minority voters who are less likely to have a driver’s license or other valid government-issued photo ID.

The new law took effect July 1, but its enforcement was blocked by state and federal judges during the state’s July primaries and August runoffs.

Last October, federal Judge Harold Murphy struck down an earlier version of the law, saying it amounted to an unconstitutional poll tax.

The Georgia Legislature addressed his complaints in the latest version of the law, but when Murphy issued an injunction before the July primaries, he said the state had not taken enough time to educate voters.

Because the Department of Justice did not approve the photo ID requirement until late June, the state’s election board had only three weeks to educate voters before the primaries — a window that was too short, Murphy said.

Nationwide, 24 states have legislation requiring voters to show some form of identification. Seven states, including Georgia, have passed legislation requiring voters to show a photo ID at the polls.

The issue heads to Congress on Wednesday, when the House takes up debate on legislation that would require all voters to show government-issued photo ID proving their citizenship.

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