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By Willoughby Mariano January 10, 2012

Gingrey: Voter ID van made house calls

More states are adopting laws that require voters to show photo IDs at the polls, and the Obama administration is crying foul.

The U.S. Department of Justice recently announced that it’s challenging a South Carolina photo ID requirement because it discriminates against minorities and the poor. Supporters say the new rules prevent fraud.

As the debate intensifies, all sides are turning their attention to one of the first states to say paper identification isn’t enough: Georgia.

U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey, a Marietta Republican, said in a recent article on the Fox News website that when the state passed its new rules in the mid-2000s, the state bent over backward to see that it disenfranchised no one.

After the state tightened the voter ID laws, it told people, "Look, we will literally send a van and a photographer to the home of anybody that can say they can't get a picture made and a photo ID and we will do it ... at the state's cost and the taxpayer cost and not at the individual cost," Gingrey said in the Dec. 28 article.

This was news to us. Since when did bureaucrats make house calls?

We asked Gingrey spokeswoman Jen Talaber, who told us about the Department of Driver Services’ Georgia Licensing on Wheels, otherwise known as the GLOW bus.

Starting September 2005, an aging Blue Bird lumbered across Georgia making voter IDs. The poor got theirs for free. The rest paid $5.

The rug was the color of oatmeal, a media report said. A bench was upholstered in vinyl.

It was a bit of a junker.

Leaky hoses forced the rescheduling of stops in rural Pulaski and Wilcox counties, according to an article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A bad alternator pushed back a visit to Statesboro. A battery problem made the GLOW bus late for a Cherokee County appearance.

And the bus service wasn’t nearly as convenient as Gingrey said. It did not go to individual homes. Instead, it stopped at gathering places such as the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center and the Talbot County Courthouse west of Macon, according to a 2005 schedule.

"Appointments cannot be made for individuals," said a 2005 Department of Driver Services press release announcing the service.

Still, it was the big bus that could. News accounts said the GLOW bus had the capacity to make as many as 200 cards a day.

Yet for the most part, it was the big bus that didn’t.

Between Aug. 30 and Oct. 1, 2005, the GLOW bus issued 22 voter IDs, according to Department of Driver Services figures. Today, there are 559 active voter cards statewide that were issued through the department.

The bus service was ultimately canceled.

Supporters and foes of Georgia’s voter ID law debated why the GLOW bus was such a dud. Then-Gov. Sonny Perdue argued the numbers were proof there was no need for it. Others said the service wasn’t well advertised, or that a single bus couldn’t handle the needs of a large state.

Helen Butler, executive director of the Georgia Coalition for the People's Agenda, a civil rights group, told PolitiFact Georgia that the bus didn’t solve the cost problem. While a voter ID card is free, getting the documentation to obtain one isn’t. It can cost $30 for a birth certificate, she said.

So yes, the GLOW bus existed. It made voter IDs for free.

But the state did not "literally send a van and a photographer to the home of anybody that can say they can't get a picture made and a photo ID," as Gingrey said  

The GLOW bus didn’t do house calls.  

It might have made getting a voter ID more convenient. And the fact that few used the bus might bolster Gingrey’s argument that people who want the IDs don’t need help.

But this is a far cry from door-to-door service. A wheelchair-bound senior with no car could not apply for an ID from her living room couch, as Gingrey’s claim suggested. A civic group would have to request the van travel to a nearby civic center or courthouse, and an individual would have to trek there to get one.

Gingrey’s statement contains some element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression.

Gingrey earns a Mostly False.

Our Sources, "Battle Over Voter ID Laws Heats Up in the States," Dec. 28, 2011

Email interview, Jen Talaber, spokeswoman, U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey, Jan. 3, 2012

Georgia Department of Driver Services, "Department of Driver Services Begins Mobile Licensing Tours and Center Reservations for Photo Identification Card Issuance," Sept. 1, 2005

Georgia Department of Driver Services, GLOW bus schedule, accessed Jan. 4, 2012

Georgia Department of Driver Services, Georgia Identification Card for Voting Purposes, accessed Jan. 5, 2012

Email interviews, Susan Sports, spokeswoman, Department of Driver Services, Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, 2012

Associated Press, "State's GLOW bus has issued fewer IDs than expected," Dec. 19, 2005

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Photo ID bus gets little use," Dec. 19, 2005

Los Angeles Times, "Few Get on Board Georgia's ID Plan," Dec. 26, 2005

The Macon Telegraph, "Slow going for GLOW bus," Jan. 19, 2006

Telephone interview, Helen Butler, executive director, Georgia Coalition for the People's Agenda, Jan. 5, 2012

The Washington Post, "Justice Dept. rejects South Carolina voter ID law, calling it discriminatory," Dec. 21, 2011

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Gingrey: Voter ID van made house calls

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