On Wednesday, May 14, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution had reported that U.S. Senate Democratic candidate Branko Radulovacki had an unsettling encounter while being stopped by local police in Milledgeville after attending a May 12 event with his campaign manager Elliott Smith.
Radulovacki and Smith, who were in the same car, were stopped by a Georgia College campus police officer which resulted in Smith's driver's license being taken away despite documentation by Smith which illustrated that his license wasn't suspended.
However, the ordeal prompted Radulovacki to speak out about the unfair treatment of Smith and a bigger issue of racial profiling.
On a side note, Dr. Rad had talked about the confiscation of Smith's driver's license and proposed the following if he is elected to the U.S. Senate:
1. Push for federal legislation to protect the voting rights of those whose driver's licenses are confiscated by police in states (like Georgia) that require photo IDs.
2. Initiate a national discussion of the undue burden placed on those compelled to forfeit a driver's license. Not only does it hinder voting rights, it interferes with the ability to cash a paycheck, rent a car, pick up a prescription, get on a plane, enter a government building, or perform any number of daily tasks that require a photo ID.
In March 2011, the Georgia Supreme Court upheld a Republican-supported state law requiring voters to show identification before they cast ballots. In the court's 6-1 decision, the justices came to the conclusion that no Georgia voter had their rights disenfranchised by the 2006 law.
The lone dissent came from Justice Robert Benham, who said getting the free photo ID was even more burdensome than registering to vote. He also said that voting by absentee ballot bars residents from openly exercising their rights to participate in a democracy.
Benham wrote in a 2011 dissenting opinion:
“This country has a long history of denying the franchise to certain groups of citizens-non-property owners, members of certain religions, African-Americans, women, Native Americans, young adults aged 18 to 21, etc. It is unfortunate that over the course of the last 13 years, this State has placed ever increasing restrictions on its citizens‟ability to cast regular, non-provisional ballots at their local polling precincts.”
He argues that “obtaining the free‟voter identification card is actually more burdensome than registering to vote,” due to the amount of documentation a person must provide. And voting by absentee ballot deprives a person of “the right to be among one’s fellow citizens at the polling precinct and to openly exercise his or her right to participate in a democracy.”
“Citizens at the margins of our society (i.e., the poor, infirm, and elderly) are still effectively being disenfranchised in the name of the government’s“purported interest in preventing voting frauds that have not been proven to occur at any rate of significance,” Justice Benham writes in the dissent. “As such, I must respectfully disagree with the majority opinion in this case.”
Radulovacki, who is also known as Dr. Rad, was a passenger in the vehicle and said his manager wasn’t speeding, didn’t violate any rules of the road and hadn’t been drinking when he was pulled over. His apparent crime, Radulovacki said, was “driving while black.” Here’s what Radulovacki told his supporters on Facebook:
“That phrase — “driving while black” — had come up at our children’s high school as part of a discussion of racism. Honestly, as a white male, I didn’t take it seriously. But I do now.
The officer asked us both for driver’s licenses — even though I wasn’t driving. He pulled Elliott out of the car for a breathalyzer — which read .00, as he told the officer it would. When the policeman ran Elliott’s license, he told us it was suspended. Elliott produced paperwork proving that was incorrect. The police officer took his license anyway….
We spent the rest of the drive home talking about race relations and what it’s like to be a person of color in the South. In minority communities, there is profound distrust of a system that permits an officer to confiscate the ID required to vote just before it’s needed — especially if the “violation” isn’t one.”
Radulovacki told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he hopes his experience encourages more dialogue about racial profiling.
“Reading about it and hearing about it is one thing,” he said. “But when you’re actually in the car when it happens it really opens your eyes.”