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Wed February 8, 2012
SC Sues Justice Department Over Voter ID Law
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson filed a complaint against the Department of Justice in U.S. District Court Tuesday stating the DOJ was wrong to reject the state’s new law requiring voters to present a photo ID at the polls.
WHQR’s Sara Wood reports under Section Five of the Voting Rights Act, South Carolina is one of the states required to seek federal pre-clearance on any change to voting laws because of its history of discriminatory practices at the polls.
The complaint states the proposed law would not discriminate against voters in the same way required character and literary tests did prior to the Voting Rights Act.
Wilson also says that other states not covered under Section Five, like Indiana, have passed similar photo ID laws to enact voter-fraud prevention.
But Chris Whitmire, a spokesperson for the South Carolina Election Commission, says since the photo ID issue has surfaced in the last couple of years, there has not been one documented case of voter fraud.
“I’ve never seen a case where you go back and it looks like somebody did vote for someone or even tried to vote from someone. The answer is out there. It doesn’t have to be a mystery. The record is there, you can compare that signature to the original voter registration application. All these records exist.”
Currently voters can present a voter registration card without a photo but the new law would require a government-issued ID like a driver’s license or a passport. One new option would be a voter registration card with a photo on it.
While this may be viable for residents who do not have proper documents to obtain a DMV-issued ID, Nancy Abudu with the American Civil Liberties Union says transportation then becomes the issue.
“African Americans tend to lack such transportation still at higher rates than white citizens. So you’re putting the burden on the voter to get to the registration office and have that photograph taken, where as under the current law that’s totally unnecessary, the whole registration process can be done from someone’s home.”
Abudu says there are many more polling places in any given community, but only a few DMV and election offices, so just getting the photo ID can be a barrier for many voters.
If the law does go into affect, the state election commission estimates 202,000 registered voters would be affected.
Abudu says the ACLU is reviewing the complaint and will soon be making a final decision about what role, if any, the organization will play in this court action.
Several calls to the state attorney general’s office were not returned for this story.
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