State Rep. Stacey Evans (D-Smyrna) and state Sen. Doug Stoner (D-Smyrna) spoke to party members on Saturday morning at the Cobb Democrats’ monthly breakfast at Piccadilly Cafeteria on Cobb Parkway in Marietta. How to work through the state’s voter identification law, which some Democrats feel unjustly disenfranchises voters, was a topic of concern.
“We’ve got to educate — we’ve got to educate seniors and make sure we’re signing people up to vote, filling out absentee ballots for them, taking them to the polls and making sure they have the paperwork they need,” said Evans.
“That’s why I’m talking about getting our house in order now. Let’s do these voter registration efforts now. Let’s make sure people have their IDs to vote, now. We cannot be scurrying to get this information together in October. We’ve got to be doing it now.”
Indiana and Georgia were among the first states to enact voter ID laws, which have spread nationwide. The Georgia voter ID law has been on the books since 2006. It has repeatedly been upheld in court, most recently by the Georgia Supreme Court in May. In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s law.
Since then, six other states — Kansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin — have also enacted strict voter ID laws that require government-issued photo IDs to vote.
Seven other states — including Alabama, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan and South Dakota — request photo IDs but do not require them. And sixteen states now require identification to vote, but not necessarily photo IDs, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Republicans say that such tough rules are needed to prevent fraud at the polls. However, Democrats and civil rights groups argue that obtaining identification can be a hardship for the elderly, minorities and the poor, and that such laws are designed to dilute Democratic votes at the polls.
Stoner, who faces a tough re-election bid after his 6th district was redrawn to include conservative-leaning areas, said his party is good at getting people to vote early, but must also do a better job at informing individuals about voting by mail, which happens to not require voter ID.
“The biggest fraud by the way in the state of Georgia is not at the polls; it’s vote by mail,” Stoner said.
“The Republicans do an excellent job at getting people to vote by mail. So they made sure their folks didn’t have to show ID. But we do a better job at getting people to the polls, so guess where they put the omnibus. So let’s take advantage of that. Let’s use it against them.”
Evans, who beat Republican candidate Scott McDearman in 2010 for the seat vacated by former Democratic state Rep. Rob Teilhet, agreed. Although she won 68 percent of the total vote, she said she lost the mail-in votes to her opponent by two to one.
Toward the end of the meeting, Cobb Democratic Chairwoman Melissa Pike discussed the importance of voter registration efforts with members. The redistricting of the districts of Stoner and state Rep. Sheila Jones (D-South Cobb) into Buckhead, means the party will have to spend more money smarter, said Pike in urging members to contribute dues.
“The Democratic Party of Georgia is going to be focusing their efforts on getting out the vote,” she told members.
“That’s going to leave it to the county parties to do registration. Our major push is going to be voter registration at the same time as signing people up for absentee ballots. What this is going to do is change the structure in the way we once spent some of our money.”