South Carolina Democrats protest voter ID law to DOJ

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[JURIST] South Carolina’s Senate Minority Caucus filed an objection on Friday with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website], asking for the rejection of the state’s new voter identification law. The caucus, comprised of Democrats in the state Senate, argued that the law, which will require South Carolina residents to present a current government-issued ID, is too restrictive and may disenfranchise African Americans and elderly voters [AP report]. The objection follows earlier attempts by several South Carolina civil rights groups [JURIST report] to prevent the law from being implemented. They allege that the new law is stricter than other state voter ID laws because a voter must have both a valid and current form of identification. Critics of the law believe that those with suspended or revoked licenses will potentially lose the chance to vote [Sun News report] because they do not have any other form of identification. Additionally, opponents argue that this law targets elderly and African American voters who are also without these forms of identification. The Democratic caucus suggests the law specifically targets African American voters because it was introduced after 2008 when African Americans voted in equal percentages [WP report] as whites in the South Carolina Democratic primary. Supporters of the law argue it is a measure against voter fraud. The DOJ, which must approve the law before it can take effect under the Voting Rights Act [materials], is expected to make a ruling on the law’s validity within the next week.

There are now 30 US states that require voters to present some form of ID at the polls, including 14 states that require photo ID, but the issue remains controversial. In June, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon vetoed legislation [JURIST report] that would have required individuals to present government-issued photo ID at the voting booth. In May, the Georgia Supreme Court upheld a state law [JURIST report] that requires voters to present one of six government-issued photo identifications in order to vote. In contrast, a three-judge panel for the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit struck down [JURIST report] a portion of an Arizona law requiring proof of citizenship for voter registration in October.

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