The ruling by a panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals came eight days after U.S. District Court Judge Harold Murphy in Rome temporarily barred the state from using the law, saying it amounted to an unconstitutional poll tax.
The state, hoping to win on appeal, had asked the appeals court to lift the injunction, but the court refused.
Were just delighted that any registered voter in Georgia can vote in person whether or not they have a photo ID, said David Brackett, with law firm Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore, which is representing the plaintiffs.
Russ Willard, communications director with the attorney generals office, declined comment.
The 11th Circuit panel, while refusing to lift the injunction, did agree to hear the states appeal with haste, though it set a timetable that would place arguments well after the local elections.
Dan McLagan, a spokesman for the governor, said, We are pleased that the 11th Circuit granted the states motion for an expedited review. This is common sense legislation with overwhelming support among the people of Georgia, and we are confident it will be upheld.
According to Brackett, a decision on the merits of the appeal should occur before July 2006.
Were gratified all registered voters in Georgia can vote, whether or not they can purchase a photo ID, said Neil Bradley, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, which joined civil rights and voting rights activists in challenging the law.
Two federal courts have now recognized the potential of this law to place an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote for thousands of Georgia voters, especially minorities, the elderly and the poor, he said.
The law would eliminate the use of some other forms of voter identification to vote, including Social Security cards, birth certificates and utility bills. Supporters, including Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue, argued that the measure would help prevent fraud.
A drivers license with a photo is sufficient under the law. But those who do not have a license must obtain a state ID card, which can cost as much as $35. The governor said such cards would be given to those who cannot afford the fee.
The GOP-backed measure heightened racial tensions during the legislative session. Most of Georgias black lawmakers walked out of the Capitol when it passed in March, some loudly singing a civil rights-era protest song. The widow of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, called on the governor to veto the bill.
In his ruling Oct. 18, Murphy held that the photo ID requirement is most likely to prevent Georgias elderly, poor and African-American voters from voting. For those citizens, the character and magnitude of their injury the loss of their right to vote is undeniably demoralizing and extreme.
Georgia House Speaker Glenn Richardson, R-Hiram, called the ruling unfortunate and said it leaves the integrity of the Nov. 8 elections in question.
The simple act of showing a valid photo identification has become a part of our daily lives, he said. We show photo identification to board an airplane, to write a check or to rent a movie. Our elections process in the state of Georgia is certainly worth the same level of scrutiny.
Staff writer Alan Riquelmy contributed to this report. THE RULING The following is the text of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuits ruling issued Thursday:
Appellants motion for expedited treatment of their motion for stay pending appeal is granted.
Appellants motion to stay the preliminary injunction entered by the district court pending disposition of this appeal is denied.
Appellants motion to expedite consideration and disposition of this appeal is granted. The district clerk shall expedite the preparation of the record so that the record will be available to the parties in the district court as they prepare their briefs with accurate record cites.
Appellants brief shall be due on Dec. 5, 2005. Appellees brief shall be due on Jan. 9, 2006.
Appellants reply brief, if any, shall be due on Jan. 23, 2006. All briefs are to be physically received in the Clerks Office on the date due, and hand-delivered to opposing counsel on the due date.
Appellees are directed to notify the district court when their brief is filed, and the district court clerk is directed to transmit the record to this Court immediately upon receipt of such notice. Upon the completion of briefing, the Clerk is directed to expedite oral argument and to schedule this appeal for the next available oral argument calendar.