Indiana passed a law in 2005 requiring voters to have and show state-produced photo identification at the polls before any election. Handel, whose office handles elections and who personally supports the law, is interested because Georgia also requires photo identification to cast a ballot. Other states allow voters to present non-picture identification, such as paychecks or utility bills.
Backers of the law, often Republicans, say it would cut down on voter fraud. The opponents, often Democrats, say it could disproportionately affect elderly, poor and minority voters who would be more likely to lack such identification.
More than 20 states require some form of identification at the polls. Courts have upheld voter ID laws in Arizona, Georgia and Michigan, but struck down Missouri’s. The Indiana case should be decided by late June, in time for the November elections. The justices could use the case to instruct courts on how to weigh claims of voter fraud versus those of disenfranchisement.
Handel said she had been in the courtroom when the justices heard the case.
“I’m pretty optimistic for Indiana that it will be upheld,” she told the 20-30 members of her audience at Ryan’s Steakhouse. “...The impact of this case is that if Indiana’s version is upheld, it will really boost Georgia’s law.”
Members of the audience nodded in agreement.
On the other side of the party room’s glass partition, however, about 20-30 members of the Antioch Baptist Church on Highway 16 in Carrollton were also having a breakfast meeting. Those members were entirely black, compared to one black member at the Republican Party meeting.
Given the race element posed in the Supreme Court challenge to the Indiana ID law, would both groups see the issue in the same way?
Members of the Antioch congregation and the pastor directed questions to Charles Wilson, chairman of the Deacons’ Ministry. Wilson said he was familiar with the Indiana law.
“My attitude is, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” Wilson said of the existing election system in other states.
One of the challengers’ arguments in the Supreme Court case is that proponents of photo identification have not produced any evidence that voter fraud has occurred. Formerly, proponents countered that challengers did not have any evidence the photo-identification requirement has denied someone a vote, but recently several people have come forward to say they were not allowed to vote in Indiana because they could not produce the state-issued picture IDs in time.
“One of the things we want to take a good, hard, close look at are all the recent laws, quote-unquote, that are supposed to doing something to protect us, but tend to be invasions of our privacy,” Wilson said.
Back in the Republican Party meeting, Chairman Terry Agne noted the Carroll County chapter would have a float in the Carrollton Martin Luther King Day parade on Jan. 21, and minority membership in the Carroll County Republican Party had increased to about 15 percent.
That would be proportionate to the U.S. Census 2006 estimates, which puts the black population in Carroll County at 18,131 people to the total 107,325, or 16.9 percent. The next closest minority is Hispanic, at 4.3 percent.
So what would it take to get more minorities to join the Republican Party?
Wilson said his congregation leaned Democratic, and that “major issues” like health care and Social Security mattered most to them.
A recent USA Today poll found that 41 percent of Americans “trust Democrats more” on health care, compared to 17 percent for Republicans.
Handel spoke for more than half an hour about other issues, such as renewal licenses for corporations, which her department also handles. She said she had been able to collect about $2 million in back-fees since she was elected Secretary of State in 2006.
After the Handel talk, Kevin Jackson, president of the Snake Creek Property Owners Association and candidate for the District 5 Board of Commissioners seat, said something upon which both sides of the glass divide might agree.
“I was impressed (by Handel),” Jackson said. “She seems to be working on laying down some improvements. There’s always room for that in government.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.