OK's Voter ID Law Challenge Dismissed

Thursday, August 18th 2016, 2:42 pm
By: Grant Hermes

After four years of battling in court, an Oklahoma County judge ruled this week the state's voter ID law will stand. 

The law requires voters to show a valid photo ID, state issued voter card or a signed affidavit to vote. The law was passed in 2011 but the challenge has been in the court system since 2012. 

Jim Thomas, who is representing Delilah Christine Gentes of Tulsa, said Thursday requiring any extra hurdle to vote is unconstitutional and that many voters, especially the poor, are unable to comply with state law. 

“Over 1 million people in Oklahoma are without any kind of photo identification needed to satisfy the voter ID law,” Thomas said. Court documents filed by Thomas challenging the law say voter ID unfairly impacts the elderly, the college-aged young, the poor and minority voters. However, the total amount of disenfranchised voters according to the documents was 566,712. 

In a statement Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt disagreed. "As the court correctly found, the state law does not infringe on any citizen's right to vote and the law provides for several easy avenues to show proof of identity," he said. 

Supporters of the law also say there needs to be a way to prevent voter fraud at the polls, although when asked State Election Board Spokesperson Bryan Dean couldn't name any specific cases of fraud and said “it just doesn't exist.” 

Dean clarified Thursday he was speaking both in the context of since the law was passed and since he joined the board staff two years ago, adding that voter fraud is difficult to prove and that no one has ever been prosecuted to his knowledge.

“Our bigger issue is that people don't turn out to vote in the first place. Nobody is showing up to vote as somebody else,” Andy Moore said. Moore is the organizer of the Let’s Fix This voter education campaign started after the most recent legislative session. 

Voter ID laws became prevalent after the Tea Party sweep in 2008, mostly in Republican states. Opponents have long decried the laws as discriminatory. 

Oklahoma's ruling comes just weeks after similar laws were struck down in Texas, Wisconsin and North Carolina. In that case, the judge confirmed suspicions about voter ID, saying the law was "passed with racially discriminatory intent." 

Thomas said he plans to appeal his case, potentially to the state Supreme Court.