In his Aug. 22 op-ed, "Reviving Jim Crow?" David J. Becker describes Georgia's new voting law as "one of the single most discriminatory pieces of voting legislation of recent years." Why? Simply because it requires that voters have a photo ID.
In fact, the law has nothing to do with racial discrimination or anything like it. Its purpose is to make it impossible for any person to vote by using someone else's name. Under Georgia's previous law, it was entirely possible to do so. Voters could "identify" themselves with a copy of any utility bill or "government document" to which they had access. They could show a document with any person's name on it as "proof" that they were that person.
Opponents argue that since there is no evidence of voter fraud, the intent of the law must be discriminatory. That contention is factually incorrect and misses the law's point: to eliminate fraud and reduce the clear potential for fraud. The state has a history of "voters" rising from the dead to vote, often more than once. A November 2000 Atlanta Journal-Constitution report showed that between 1980 and 2000, more than 5,000 people voted in Georgia after their deaths. Of course, that is the number that could be documented.
The fact that not every instance of voter fraud can be detected points to the need to reduce the opportunity for fraud, which, by its nature, is secret. The successful fraud is the one that goes undetected. If one newspaper found more than 5,000 confirmed cases of voter impersonation, there can be little doubt that many more exist.
If the Georgia General Assembly knows that fraud is occurring or that the current system allows it to, it is incumbent on that body to remedy the problem. The law's purpose is discriminatory toward no one. It is designed to protect the rights of all voters who wish to exercise their legitimate right to vote and to have that vote counted without being canceled by an illegitimate vote.
Nor is any discriminatory effect proved by the opposition of minority legislators to this law, by the number of minority citizens in other states who have no photo identification or by the allegation that it is difficult to obtain photo identification in Georgia.
The positions of Georgia legislators on this subject broke along party -- not racial -- lines. Furthermore, the implication that a disproportionate number of minority residents of the state lack photo identification is unsupported by any Georgia statistics. Of Georgia's voting-age population, 2,260,437 more people hold such identification than are registered to vote. Thus the number of voting-age citizens who lack photo identification cannot, as a matter of math, be large. Nor is there any support for the assumption that a majority of the voting-age population that lacks photo identification is made up of minorities.
Even when a voter does need to acquire a photo ID, it won't be hard to do. For those voters who cannot visit one of the 56 driver's license offices throughout Georgia, the state is providing a mobile photo identification unit, which will deliver a photo ID to anyone who needs it.
By preventing identity theft or creation (as either a nonexistent or dead person) at the polling place, Georgia's new law forecloses the opportunity for an invalid vote to cancel a valid one. The purpose and effect are to make every valid vote count -- regardless of the race of the voter.
The writers are Atlanta lawyers who litigate voting rights cases. Frank B. Strickland is a former general counsel, and Anne W. Lewis is the chief deputy general counsel of the Georgia Republican Party. The opinions presented here are their own.