Georgia House Speaker announces proposal to make ID cards free to residents

Georgia's Speaker of the House of Representatives announced Wednesday a proposal that would make Georgia ID cards free to residents.

"I am committed to eliminating barriers to voting for all legally eligible Georgians," House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, told reporters during a news conference Wednesday afternoon outside the House Chamber.  

The Georgia House approved a bill earlier this week that would require ID to request an absentee ballot. 

Georgia already offers a free voter ID card through the Department of Drivers Services, Ralston said, but those are solely for voting purposes. State ID cards are similar to driver’s licenses in that they are compliant with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s REAL ID standard and may be used for voter identification, among other purposes. 

Ralston said the state ID card can be used to open a checking account, board a commercial flight or, in this case, to vote. 

"This is just another effort to make our elections secure and accessible," Ralston said.

While the change is not finalized, the Speaker said he hopes it can be enacted quickly. He said the House budget proposal will contain $250,000 to publicize the effort. 

Currently, it costs $32 to purchase an ID card in Georgia that expires after eight years. 

Under HB 531, voters must include their Georgia Driver's License or ID number, or a photocopy of another government-issued document in order to request an absentee ballot.  

Republicans who support the bill say it is a measure to reassure the public that elections are safe, while critics argue the bill creates more barriers for voters to clear. 

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