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Friday, October 28, 2005

ACLU Challenges Albuquerque Voter ID Law

Editor's Note: Barbara Grothus, whom many of you know from our activist work, is a plaintiff in this lawsuit. You may recall this voter ID measure was originally proposed by Republican City Councilor Sally Mayer and was passed by voters in a referendum in the October 4th municipal election. It requires a photo ID from in-person voters, but requires nothing from those who vote using absentee ballots.

Not coincidentally, many more Republicans than Democrats vote absentee. Democratic City Council members tried to pass a version of voter ID that included absentee voters. Their effort was thwarted when Republicans Mayer, Tina Cummins and Craig Loy voted against the bill, which needed 7 votes to change the city's election code. Now the city will have to bear the cost of a lawsuit due to the law's focus only on in-person voters.

From the ACLU New Mexico website:
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico filed a civil rights lawsuit today asking the federal court to declare Albuquerque’s recently-passed Voter I.D. Amendment “unconstitutional, illegal, null and void.”

The new law requires people who vote in person to present a “current valid identification card containing the voter’s name and photograph.” Among the acceptable forms of identification are a driver’s license, a credit card, and a voter identification card issued by the City Clerk. Absentee voters are exempt from any photo I.D. requirements.

“If you’re poor or homeless, there’s a good chance you don’t have any of the permissible forms of identification,” said ACLU Executive Director Peter Simonson. “Wealth shouldn’t determine your ability to participate in democracy. Americans shouldn’t have to jump through unnecessary hoops to exercise their constitutionally-guaranteed right to vote.”

Under the Voter I.D. Amendment, an application for an absentee ballot simply requires that people provide their name, address, and the last four digits of the social security number. No photo I.D. requirement applies and the ballot may be cast by mail or delivered in person.

Simonson said, “Why should people who actually show their faces at the polling place suffer more rigorous identification requirements than someone who votes from a distance? It doesn’t make sense. We’re creating two classes of voters. The Constitution doesn’t permit that.”

The filing of the ACLU suit coincides with today’s decision by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals upholding a court ruling blocking another voter I.D. law in Georgia. Like the Albuquerque law, Georgia’s photo I.D. requirements only applied to in-person voters. Simonson said the Georgia decision “sets a very good precedent for our case.”

Attorneys James Scarantino, Joseph Kennedy, and Shannon Oliver are litigating the ACLU’s case along with ACLU Staff Attorney George Bach. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the ACLU of New Mexico and Barbara Grothus.

October 28, 2005 at 10:27 AM in Local Politics | Permalink


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