After four hours of racially charged debate, Georgia lawmakers Thursday approved changes aimed at making it easier for poor people to obtain the photo ID cards needed to vote.
Under a law passed last year — but blocked from taking effect by a federal judge in October — voters must show photo identification at the polls. Those who do not have a driver’s license can use a state-issued photo ID. But they cost up to $35, and were not made widely available.
To answer the judge’s concerns that the law amounted to an unconstitutional poll tax, the state House voted Thursday to make the photo IDs free to those who need them and give each of Georgia’s 159 counties equipment to issue the cards.
The bill, passed 110-64, now goes to the Senate, which like the House is Republican-led.
Supporters of the measure, most of them Republicans, said it would help prevent election fraud. Democratic opponents were unsatisfied by the changes, saying that requiring any form of state-issued ID suppresses the votes of the poor, minorities and the elderly.
“Many of the members in here, I don’t believe you’re racist — but some of you I do,” said Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan, a Democrat. “If you don’t want to stand for the black people, stand for the elderly, stand for the students.”
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, voters in 21 other states are asked to show identification before voting. In six states — Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Louisiana, South Carolina and South Dakota — voters must show photo ID; the 15 other states accept other forms of identification.