Ruling focuses on voting rights

A federal court order issued to the Georgia secretary of state won’t come anywhere close to resolving once and for all a national debate that has gone on for years and likely will go on for years to come. But it just might give us a clearer perspective on what the debate is about.

That debate is about state laws governing eligibility to cast a ballot — and more to the point, whether those laws really are about electoral integrity or merely an end-around tactic of voter suppression.

This week, U.S. District Judge William S. Duffey Jr. ruled that Secretary of State Brian Kemp must release detailed database voter registration records, which show who was and was not allowed to register and, presumably, the specific reasons.

The background of this order is a suit by Washington-based nonprofit Project Vote, which has been trying to get Georgia voter registration records for more than two years. The state has argued that the suit is unwarranted due to issues of privacy and public expense. But Duffey’s ruling held that the “threatened injury” of withholding the official records is a greater public concern.

The judge set an Oct. 7 deadline for the state to release the records, four days ahead of the state’s voter registration deadline. The secretary of state’s office has said it will comply, and “will be working with Project Vote to produce documents that the court has deemed responsive to their requests.”

The sometimes bitter nationwide debates over voter registration and ID laws have been mostly a matter of claims and counterclaims. At least in Georgia, this order is as close to a put-up-or-shut-up moment — for both sides — as we’ve seen so far.

Down to Earth

Why should E.T. and Yoda have all the fun?

That’s what a few of our fellow earthlings want to know, as they seek facsimiles of the “Golden Record” astronomer and author Carl Sagan put together 40 years ago for the edification of anybody “out there” who might have a close encounter with it.

The recording — which includes natural earth sounds, greetings in 55 languages, more than 100 images, and music ranging from a Peruvian wedding song to Western classical to rock and roll — was launched with the Voyager 1 space probe in 1977 and is now far beyond the solar system.

David Pescovitz, an editor and partner at the tech news website Boing Boing, is part of a project to reissue it to an audience somewhat closer to home.

“When you’re 7 years old, and you hear about a group of people creating messages for possible extraterrestrial intelligence,” Pescovitz said, “that sparks the imagination. The idea always stuck with me.”

The reconfigured package is expected to cost about $100 (vinyl is somewhat more affordable for the average terrestrial consumer than gold-plated copper) and is timed for release next year, the 40th anniversary of the Voyager launch.

Maybe our “neighbors” already know what’s in it, and maybe not. It’s likely to be a long time before we find out.