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May 5, 2014

ID rulings boost law challenger

TULSA — Recent court decisions in Wisconsin and Arkansas regarding voter identification laws are encouraging to a Tulsa woman who is challenging Oklahoma’s ID law.

Delilah Christine Gentges’ case is before an Oklahoma County District Court judge, who is to decide whether it will be heard in that county or Tulsa County.

The Tulsa World reported that Gentges’ primary argument is that the voter ID law violates the state constitution’s requirement that “(a)ll elections shall be free and equal. No power, civil or military, shall ever interfere to prevent the free exercise of the right of suffrage. ...”

Among other things, Oklahoma’s law requires a voter to show a valid voter identification card or a document issued by the federal or state government or a federally recognized tribal government.

The latest Wisconsin ruling, by a federal judge, held that the law in that state violates the Voting Rights Act and the 14th Amendment because it is more likely to keep eligible voters from the ballot box.

Judge Lynn Adelman said Wisconsin failed to prove a single case of in-person voter fraud, while plaintiffs showed numerous cases in which otherwise eligible voters were initially denied the required photo identification because of minor discrepancies in their birth certificates or other proof of identity.

“When I saw the Wisconsin decision, saw it was 91 pages, I was excited,” said Jim Thomas, a University of Tulsa law professor who represents Gentges. “It shows the attention the court gave to this case. It increased my confidence that Oklahoma’s law will be struck down.”

On Friday, a state court ruled Arkansas’ voter ID law violates a section of that state’s constitution similar to Oklahoma’s. The cases in both states are under appeal.

Aaron Cooper, a spokesman for Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, said Adelman “did not find that voter ID laws are per se unconstitutional. Rather, he found that the way the Wisconsin law was being implemented ... was unconstitutional.”

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