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Address other fraud avenues
Absentee votes, lack of receipts more of a concern than IDs

By TYRONE BROOKS    Atlanta Journal Constitution    08/29/05

The champions of requiring only government-issued voter photo identification at the polls are suspiciously silent on two issues: valid voter photo identification for those who mail in absentee ballots and equipping all electronic voting machines with receipts.

Why is there so much interest in fraud at the polls while ignoring instances of fraud in the absentee balloting process (where more instances of fraud are found) and the actual voting process?

With 2006 a critical election year, the people of Georgia should demand that the General Assembly in January take up the issue of receipts in voting machines.

It's logical, sensible and reasonable for voting machines to be equipped with receipts. When we conduct transactions at teller machines, do we take if for granted that the machine will correctly record our transaction or do we require a receipt as proof?

If any elected officials are against the process of receipts at the polls, their motives should be questioned. If any elected officials are against tightening rules governing absentee ballots, their motives should be questioned. If it is right for voters who walk in the polls to show identification, then it should also be required that those who vote absentee send in a copy of their valid photo identification.

On the question of voter ID, it is also suspect that only certain forms of "government-issued ID" are acceptable. Why not valid employee photo ID? It is discriminatory and unfair that state public college students will be allowed to use their student photo ID at the polls, while students at private colleges cannot.

A recent opinion column by Sen. Bill Stephens was headlined "Democrats hardly innocent of fraud" (@issue, Aug. 19). This is an interesting headline that leads to a curious implication: Is it now someone else's turn at fraud? While Stephens rants about Democrats mastering voter fraud in Telfair County, Ga., he failed to mention how Republicans mastered it in Florida, Ohio and several other states that we won't mention due to space limitations.

Voter fraud is wrong on each side of the aisle. Whether practiced by racist segregationists in 1946 or right-wing conservatives in 2006, it is equally repugnant and un-American.

I am a major advocate of correcting past wrongs. But let's not half- step in the process. Let's take giant steps forward. There are two immediate giant steps that can be taken during the 2006 General Assembly: requiring photo ID for absentee ballots and providing voter receipts in electronic voting machines.

When pointing out the wrongs of history, we must look at the complete picture. In 1946, a large segment of the population was politically disenfranchised. They were denied access to the restricted primary elections.

Those who dared vote during general elections were subjected to physical intimidation and other impediments such as poll taxes, literacy tests, etc. Many were lynched and murdered as a result of working to register voters and obtain full voting rights for all American citizens.

Georgia's voter ID legislation is probably one of the most regressive pieces of voter rights legislation since the Jim Crow era. It is definitely the country's most restrictive voter ID law. We do not need voter regression. We need voter progression.

Receipts at the polls will give voters confidence in our election system by providing them with assurance that their votes are truly being cast for the candidate of their choice. We should be more concerned with the fair voting process of live voters in 2006 than votes cast in the names of dead voters in 1946.

Challenge elected officials to demonstrate that their intent in Georgia's new voter ID legislation was not to restrict voter access. If their intent is truly to protect the "sanctity of the ballot," make them prove it.

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