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NATION IN BRIEF

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Voter-ID Challenge Is Thrown Out in Georgia

ATLANTA -- The Georgia Supreme Court threw out a challenge Monday to the state's voter-identification law but sidestepped a decision on the law's validity by ruling that the plaintiff lacked legal standing to challenge it.

The court's unanimous opinion reversed a decision in September by Fulton County Superior Court Judge T. Jackson Bedford, who ruled that the law is unconstitutional and an undue burden on voters. After that ruling, the State Election Board decided not to require voters to show a photo ID to cast a ballot in the November elections.

The law's supporters, most of them Republicans, say it is needed to prevent voter fraud and to preserve the integrity of the electoral system. Opponents say the law will disenfranchise minorities, the poor and the elderly who do not have a driver's license or other valid government-issued photo ID.

Monday's ruling, written by Justice Harold Melton, said that plaintiff Rosalind Lake was not harmed by the ID law and lacked standing to challenge it because she was exempt as a first-time voter.

At the federal level, U.S. District Judge Harold Murphy struck down an earlier version of the law in 2005, saying that it amounted to an unconstitutional poll tax. The legislature addressed his complaints in a subsequent version, but he blocked the law again in September, saying the bill is not in the public's interest. An appeal is pending.

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· DELAVAN, Wis. -- Authorities would not elaborate on who shot six people to death, including twin infant boys, and wounded a toddler in a domestic dispute Saturday night. Investigators said that no one else was in danger and that they were not looking for a suspect -- language typically used when the shooter is among the dead.

· PHOENIX -- Two sets of sextuplets were born in different states about 10 hours apart, a concurrence that fertility experts say could become increasingly common as more couples seek artificial methods of conceiving babies. Brianna Morrison, 24, who used fertility drugs, gave birth to four boys and two girls in Minneapolis. Hours later, Jenny Masche, 32, gave birth to three boys and three girls in Phoenix after undergoing artificial insemination.

· LAREDO, Tex. -- Three National Guardsmen assigned to the Texas-Mexico border were accused of running an immigrant-smuggling ring after 24 immigrants were found inside a van that one of them was driving, a U.S. attorney said. Prosecutors accused Sgt. Julio Cesar Pacheco, 25, of recruiting soldiers to transport the migrants for $1,000 to $3,500 a trip, and Sgt. Clarence Hodge Jr., 36, of helping Pfc. Jose Rodrigo Torres, 26, pass through a Border Patrol checkpoint on the highway by making it look as if the two were conducting National Guard business. All three are assigned to Operation Jump Start, President Bush's initiative to place Guard troops at the border to help local and federal authorities with immigration enforcement.

· ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The 15-year-old girl whose marathon case of hiccups made international news this year has apparently run away from home, police said. Jennifer Mee's struggles with chronic hiccups -- up to 50 times a minute for months -- made her an Internet sensation and darling of morning television news shows. The hiccups, which stopped for a while but then started again, forced her out of school. A police spokesman said she is not thought to be in danger.

· LOS ANGELES -- Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D) took the blame for the end of his 20-year marriage but declined to comment on whether there is another woman. The mayor announced last week that he and his wife, Corina, are separating after more than 20 years of marriage. When the pair married in 1987, they merged their last names -- his "Villar" and her "Raigosa." According to his office, he will not change his last name.

· WAUSAU, Wis. -- The FBI is looking for someone sending bogus information that caused the National Weather Service to issue unnecessary warnings, authorities said. The false reports -- sent through the agency's Web page -- persuaded officials to issue at least four severe thunderstorm warnings that should not have been issued and caused confusion in confirming damage from a tornado, according to a regional administrator for the Weather Service. An FBI special agent in charge in Kansas City, Mo., said the investigation may be the first of its kind in the United States.

· FORT HOOD, Tex. -- More than 500 Army soldiers and other searchers walked side by side in scorching heat looking for any sign of a soldier lost nearly three days on the fort's training range. Sgt. Lawrence G. Sprader, 25, has not been heard from since telling his commanders by cellphone that he was lost late Friday in a solo navigation training drill.

-- From News Services

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