Civil Rights Groups Ask Government to Block South Carolina Photo ID Law

December 9, 2011 10:24 am

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CHARLESTON, SC — A coalition of civil rights and advocacy groups has asked the U. S. Department of Justice to block a South Carolina law that would prevent registered voters from casting ballots at the polls on Election Day unless they have government-approved photo identification.

In an eight-page letter, groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights under Law argue the law would disproportionately affect minority voters and thus would suppress the minority vote.

The coalition’s letter charges that the proposed change to voting requirements in the state is “unprecedented” in scope and will affect at least 216,596 registered voters—many of them minority, elderly or disabled–who lack a photo ID.

Further, the letter notes that the state has failed to prove the law does not discriminate against minority voters and has not made provisions for a voter education program that would eliminate the racial disparity.

“The voter ID requirement has the potential to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters who were able to legally cast their ballots in 2010. The scope of this supplementary registration scheme is unparalleled in South Carolina’s history since the 1960s,” said Katie O’Connor, an attorney with the ACLU Voting Rights Project.

Also signing onto the letter are the Brennan Center for Justice, the League of Women Voters of South Carolina, and Charleston attorney Armand Derfner.

“Bad laws like this one limit the pool of eligible voters and make it harder for Americans to cast a ballot,” said Victoria Middleton, executive director of the ACLU of South Carolina. “They represent a giant step backwards in a decades-long struggle to end discrimination.”

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 requires states with a history of voter suppression, including South Carolina, to get approval from the Justice Department for changes in their voting laws. The law cannot take effect until that approval is granted.

“The state’s own data show that the photo ID requirement would have a negative impact on minority voters, and the state has provided no justification for this new barrier to voting,” added Robert Kengle, Co-Director of the Voting Rights Project of the Lawyers’ Committee.

The full letter can be read here:

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