Judge won’t suspend voter ID law

Published 11:36 pm Thursday, February 18, 2016

By Kim ChandlerThe Associated Press

MONTGOMERY (AP) — A federal judge Wednesday decided against effectively suspending Alabama’s law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls.

U.S. District Judge L. Scott Coogler refused a preliminary injunction request to allow alternate means of identification for voters in the upcoming 2016 elections.

Currently, a person without photo identification can vote if two poll workers sign affidavits saying they recognize and “positively identify” the voter. Greater Birmingham Ministries and the NAACP asked Coogler to expand that provision so people can vote if they provide certain identification documents without photos or information to identify themselves to poll workers.

Coogler criticized the request as a backdoor method to do away with the photo identification requirement that took effect in 2014.

“They are asking the court to rewrite the positively identify provision in a way that circumvents the photo identification requirement altogether — without actually providing proof that the photo ID requirement is unduly burdensome on Alabama voters,” Coogler wrote.

The groups argued that it was potentially discriminatory to give local election officials, “unfettered discretion to determine whether or not to vouch for a registered voter’s identity.”

“This is precisely the type of device that Alabama and other states used for decades to discriminate against voters of color by subjecting their right to vote to the passing whim or impulse of individual election officials,” lawyers for the plaintiffs wrote in the injunction request.

Alabama in 2014 began requiring voters, with few exceptions, to show government-issued photo identification at the polls.

Greater Birmingham Ministries and the NAACP filed the lawsuit in December challenging the law as an infringement on voting rights. The lawsuit contends Alabama politicians knew that black and Latino voters “disproportionately lack the required photo ID.”

The judge did not rule on the merits of the overall lawsuit but hinted that it might not prevail.

Coogler wrote that courts, “already answered the question as to whether photo ID laws like Alabama’s violate the U.S. Constitution and/or the Voting Rights Act.”