Holder’s Racial Politics

Wall Street Journal, December 30, 2011

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The Attorney General last Friday blocked South Carolina’s voter ID law on grounds that it would hurt minorities. What a political abuse of law.

In a letter to South Carolina’s government, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez called the state law–which would require voters to present one of five forms of photo ID at the polls–a violation of Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Overall, he noted, 8.4% of the state’s registered white voters lack photo ID, compared to 10% of nonwhite voters.

This is the yawning chasm the Justice Department is now using to justify the unprecedented federal intrusion into state election law, and the first denial of a “pre-clearance” Voting Rights request since 1994.

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In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board that an Indiana law requiring photo ID did not present an undue burden on voters.

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South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley tells us she “will absolutely sue” Justice over its denial of her state’s law and that challenge will go directly to federal district court in Washington, D.C. From there it may be appealed directly to the Supreme Court, which would have to consider whether South Carolina can be blocked from implementing a law identical to the one the High Court approved for Indiana, simply because South Carolina is a “covered” jurisdiction under the Voting Rights Act.

In such a scenario, Mr. Holder’s tactics could well doom Section 5 itself. That’s a big gamble for the sake of trying to stir up election-year minority voter turnout.

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South Carolina’s law, like Indiana’s and Georgia’s, explicitly addresses potential disenfranchisement by offering state-issued IDs free of charge. When civil-rights groups fretted about the ability of minority voters to get to the local Department of Motor Vehicles to pick up a free state-issued ID card, Governor Haley created an 800 number to offer free rides to anyone who couldn’t afford the transportation. About 30 people called.

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As African-American men at the most exalted reaches of government, Messrs. Obama and Holder are a testament to how much racial progress the country has made. It’s a shame to see them pretending little has changed so they can scare up some votes.

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