MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Oklahoma News

February 11, 2014

State Supreme Court reinstates voter ID challenge

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — In a story Feb. 11 about a lawsuit challenging Oklahoma’s voter ID law, The Associated Press reported erroneously that the lawsuit originally was filed on behalf of Delilah Christine Gentges by the Tulsa chapter of the League of Women Voters. The Tulsa chapter of the League of Women Voters is not a party to the lawsuit.

A corrected version of the story is below:

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday reinstated a lawsuit that challenges the state’s voter ID law, ruling that the Tulsa County resident who filed it has legal standing to challenge the law’s constitutionality.

The state’s highest court handed down the ruling in a lawsuit filed by Delilah Christine Gentges, who sued the Oklahoma State Election Board after voters approved the law in a statewide election in 2010.

The Supreme Court ruled that the law requiring voters to prove their identity before voting was validly enacted. But it reversed a ruling by Oklahoma County District Judge Lisa Davis that Gentges lacked legal standing to challenge the law’s constitutionality on the ground that it violates the free exercise of provisions of the Oklahoma Constitution that guarantee the right to vote.

Gentges attorney, retired University of Tulsa law professor James C. Thomas, said he was delighted with the high court’s ruling.

“We challenged it on the ground that that was an undue burden,” Thomas said. “I think it will be an interesting case now. I look forward to it.”

A spokeswoman for Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s office, Diane Clay, said the office was pleased with the Supreme Court’s ruling that the Voter ID Act was validly enacted.

The lawsuit alleges the law requiring voters to present a formal identification would raise “a new barrier” for Oklahoma residents and pose a particular hardship on the elderly, the poor and minorities.

The voter ID measure, which took effect on July 1, 2011, requires voters to present a valid photo identification card from the state, tribal or federal government, though the elderly can use photo IDs without an expiration date. Those without a proper identification card can sign a sworn statement but are only allowed to cast a provisional ballot.

Supporters say the measure will reduce voter fraud. Oklahoma’s Republican-dominated Legislature approved similar voter restrictions in 2009, but former Democratic Gov. Brad Henry vetoed the plan.

Henry said at the time that the proposal conflicted with the Oklahoma Constitution, and in his veto message warned lawmakers to be “especially careful when tinkering with this fundamental right.”

Legislators then opted to place the measure, State Question 746, before voters on Nov. 2, 2010, and it passed with 74 percent of the vote.

The lawsuit alleges that the law interferes with “the unrestricted right to vote” of the 78,000 registered voters in the state who do not have appropriate credentials and are unwilling to accept any kind of statewide infringement on the right to vote.

It alleges the law interferes with a portion of the state Constitution that declares “all elections shall be free and equal.”

Online court records indicate that no hearings are scheduled in the case.

 

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