S.C. Voter ID law doesn't pass federal muster, blocked (Update: To court)

Update January 10: As expected, advocates of the downed law won't appeal to the Department of Justice, but instead plan to take the matter to court.

In a press conference, Gov. Nikki Haley, Attorney General Alan Wilson, House Speaker Bobby Harrell, and State Sen. Kevin Bryant made their position that the state would not unduly disenfranchise minority voters through its implementation of the law.

Check out the video of the conference up top. Patch also offers up a full report.

Look for more news on this in the coming days and weeks.

First reporting: Remember how there was much concern about the 178,000 S.C. voters lacking photo identification to vote under the state's passed (but not yet in effect) voter ID law?

Well, that law needed approval by the federal government — and on Friday it was denied.

The S.C. State Election Commission wrote,  "The U.S. Department of Justice today blocked implementation of a new law that would require South Carolina voters to present a photo ID in order to vote. Therefore, ID requirements for voting will not change at this time."

The Department of Justice was concerned that the percentage of those lacking photo identification was lopsidedly non-white and would unfairly disenfranchise minorities, writing: "Minority registered voters were nearly 20% more likely to lack DMV-issued ID than white registered voters, and thus to be effectively disenfranchised by Act R54's new requirements

"Put differently, although non-white voters comprised 30.4% of the state's registered voters, they constituted 34.2% of registered voters who did not have the requisite DMV-issued identification to vote."

The department instead encouraged the state to pursue free photo-equipped voter registration cards — something that was written into the bill but that the state has yet to finalize procedures for.

However, the state does not plan to ask the Department of Justice again for permission, instead S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson has already expressed his desire to take the department to court.

South Carolina is covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Therefore, any change to election law must be approved by the U.S. Department of Justice before it can be implemented or enforced. 

Current law requires voters to present one of three items to vote at the polling place: driver's license, a S.C. ID card issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles, or a voter registration card.

We'll be sure to keep you posted and you can keep up with the voter ID law saga on our topic page.

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