Georgia has definitely been in the national news lately.
This past week, CNN did a feature story on a proposed bill that is causing some serious controversy because, if it is approved, it would make Georgia the first state in the country to introduce the label of “ineligible voter” on state driver’s licenses.
Right now, residents who are legally in Georgia with a green card may carry a license that says, “limited-term.”
But if Georgia legislators pass HB 324 this session, those same residents may also have the words “ineligible voter” printed on their licenses.
Many residents who are in this country on a green card fear that this state bill could lead to backlash for non-citizens in the Peach State if their driver’s licenses include the words, “ineligible voter.”
After all, if these residents go to apply for a new job or pick up their children from school, they fear that people unfamiliar with the term, “ineligible voter” will assume they are undocumented or illegal immigrants.
These residents feel they will be unfairly discriminated against if they are forced to carry such a license.
But the whole purpose behind this bill is to supposedly help prevent voter fraud.
The bill’s sponsor, Georgia Rep. Alan Powell, R-Hartwell, told CNN this week that he just wants to make IDs less confusing.
“Under the current driver’s license system, if you’re not a citizen, then it has the term ‘term-limited,'” Powell said. “One of the things that has bothered me for quite a while is … what does ‘limited-term’ mean to the average citizen that sees a driver’s license?”
“Limited-term” is a phrase stamped on the licenses of those who have “temporary lawful status in the United States,” according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
In Georgia, residents aren’t allowed to get a driver’s license if they don’t have lawful status in the United States.
But some people want to make sure that the state has a clear distinction on those who are citizens of this country, those who have green cards and those who are illegal immigrants.
While Powell told CNN that the bill is “just clearly a way of stating the fact that someone is not eligible to vote, or that a driver’s license can’t be used for some other purpose other than for driving privileges,” some state legislators aren’t buying that argument.
Augusta’s own state Rep. Gloria Frazier was one of the legislators questioning the real purpose behind this bill.
Frazier, who is also a member of the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee, told CNN that there are already safeguards to prevent non-citizens from voting.
“If they go to register to vote and their name is not on the list, they already have a mechanism in place to check whether you are an eligible voter,” she told CNN this week.
Therefore, she was concerned about the true drive behind the proposed bill.
Critics of the bill also point out that residents must be documented in order to get a license in Georgia in the first place.
But the ironic thing about this entire debate is that Powell’s original bill was much more controversial because it went even further.
In its initial version, HB 324 suggested that Georgia should stamp the word “noncitizen” on certain licenses, including those of legal permanent residents, CNN reported this week.
But that original proposal didn’t last long after Powell’s office in the Gold Dome was flooded with calls from outraged citizens.
As a result, Powell agreed to change the word “noncitizen” to “ineligible voter” because it would be viewed as a “kinder and gentler” alternative, CNN reported.
Only time will tell if this bill becomes law, but it doesn’t help matters that The Atlanta Journal-Constitution just reported this week that the FBI is investigating an alleged data breach at the Center for Election Systems at Kennesaw State University and that President Donald Trump is expected to sign a new executive order on immigration Monday at the Department of Homeland Security.
The two combined doesn’t bode well for Georgia when it comes to reconsidering this “ineligible voter” tag suggested by Powell.
If the Peach State’s voting system is vulnerable and the president continues his crackdown on illegal immigrants in this country, Georgia could easily become the first state in the country labeling residents with green cards as “ineligible voters” on their driver’s licenses.