Justice Department Rejects South Carolina Voter ID Law

Fox News, December 23, 2011

The Justice Department on Friday rejected South Carolina’s law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls, saying it makes it harder for minorities to cast ballots. It was the first voter ID law to be refused by the federal agency in nearly 20 years.

The Obama administration said South Carolina’s law didn’t meet the burden under the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which outlawed discriminatory practices preventing blacks from voting. Tens of thousands of minorities in South Carolina might not be able to cast ballots under South Carolina’s law because they don’t have the right photo ID, Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez said.

{snip} The state’s attorney general vowed to fight the federal agency in court.

“Nothing in this act stops people from voting,” said Attorney General Alan Wilson, who is also a Republican.

South Carolina’s new voter ID law requires voters to show poll workers a state-issued driver’s license or ID card; a U.S. military ID or a U.S. passport.


The Justice Department must approve changes to South Carolina’s election laws under the federal Voting Rights Act because of the state’s past failure to protect the voting rights of blacks. It is one of nine states that require the agency’s approval.

The last time the Justice Department rejected a voter ID law was in 1994 when Louisiana passed a measure requiring a picture ID. After changes were made, it was approved by the agency.


Charlie Savage, New York Times, December 23, 2011

The Justice Department on Friday blocked a new South Carolina law that would require voters to present photo identification, saying the law would disproportionately suppress turnout among eligible minority voters.


In a letter to the South Carolina government, Thomas E. Perez, the assistant attorney for civil rights, said that allowing the new requirement to go into effect would have “significant racial disparities.”

He cited data supplied by the state as showing that there were “81,938 minority citizens who are already registered to vote and who lack” such identification, and that these voters are nearly 20 percent more likely be “disenfranchised” by the change than white voters.

South Carolina now faces the choice of dropping the proposed change or asking a federal court in the District of Columbia to approve the law.


Gov. Nikki Haley denounced the decision, accusing the Obama administration of “bullying” the state.

“It is outrageous, and we plan to look at every possible option to get this terrible, clearly political decision overturned so we can protect the integrity of our electoral process and our 10th Amendment rights,” she said in a statement.



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