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A three-judge panel in Washington unanimously has given the green-light to a voter-ID law in South Carolina. But it won't take effect until 2013. Unlike other laws requiring voters to present a photo ID at the polls, South Carolina's is not so restrictive, the key reason the judges okayed it. The special panel comprised two federal district judges and one federal appeals court judge.

In a letter to South Carolina's attorney general's office last December, the U.S. Department of Justice had said that the law, known as Act R54, would exert a discriminatory hardship on African American voters because they are less likely to have the required photo identification than white voters are. Under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was passed to defeat racist "Jim Crow" laws that barred blacks from voting, South Carolina must "pre-clear" any major voting-law changes with the DOJ.  

The department's refusal to pre-clear was based on the original South Carolina law passed in 2011. The law as it now stands is considerably different. A key element is that it allows a person without one of the allowable forms of photo ID to vote anyway if they sign an affidavit saying they are who they say. Judge Brett Kavanaugh wrote:

In short, Act R54 allows citizens with non-photo voter registration cards to still vote without a photo ID so long as they state the reason for not having obtained one; it expands the list of qualifying photo IDs that may be used to vote; and it makes it far easier to obtain a qualifying photo ID than it was under pre-existing law. Therefore, we conclude that the new South Carolina law does not have a discriminatory retrogressive effect, as compared to the benchmark of South Carolina’s pre-existing law. We also conclude that Act R54 was not enacted for a discriminatory purpose. Act R54 as interpreted thus satisfies Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, and we grant pre-clearance for South Carolina to implement Act R54 for future elections beginning with any elections in 2013. As explained below, however, given the short time left before the 2012 elections, and given the numerous steps necessary to properly implement the law —particularly the new “reasonable impediment” provision—and ensure that the law would not have discriminatory retrogressive effects on African-American voters in 2012,we do not grant pre-clearance for the 2012 elections.
In a concurring opinion, the two other judges in the case noted that the DOJ was right to step in when it did to block the law and that the pre-clearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act proved their efficacy by spurring South Carolina legislators to change their original proposal so that it could meet pre-clearance muster. Attorneys general in Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina, South Dakota and Texas have filed a brief in an Alabama case that challenges the constitutionality of Section 5.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice emailed an official response on the panel's ruling to The Wall Street Journal:

The Department of Justice is pleased that the court has denied preclearance of the South Carolina law for the 2012 elections. With regard to future elections, the Department welcomes the court’s agreement that South Carolina’s law required broad modifications in order to respond to the serious concerns raised by the Attorney General that the law as written would exclude minority voters. We also agree with the court’s observation that this shows the continuing need for Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. The court’s preclearance of the law for future elections is expressly conditioned on South Carolina’s binding promise that all qualified voters without photo ID will still be allowed to vote without additional burden. If the law—as modified by South Carolina during the course of the trial—takes effect for future elections, the Attorney General intends to monitor its implementation closely to ensure compliance with the court’s order.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Wed Oct 10, 2012 at 01:13 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  One needs to see the (9+ / 0-)

    exact language of the affidavit and verbal instructions by the poll officials for the next election.

    I'm white as snow but have practiced law long enough to know how legal shite (affidavits, depositions, queries, etc.) scare the hell out of folks who are not deemed "white" or are poor or are elderly.  

    Good news that this year will not be the test case.  Next election, perhaps Jimmy Carter's group could observe.

    " My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total." Barbara Jordan, 1974

    by gchaucer2 on Wed Oct 10, 2012 at 01:24:47 PM PDT

  •  I've been helping a number of people (5+ / 0-)

    get photo ID on the off-chance this didn't happen.  Thanks for writing about it.

    After reading about the republican registration fraud, I'm using it as a check against THEM :-)

    And I'll be sure poll watch a little extra carefully for the first election this new law is in effect....I want to make sure that EVERYONE is asked for ID, not just the black folk.

    David Koch is Longshanks, and Occupy is the real Braveheart.

    by PsychoSavannah on Wed Oct 10, 2012 at 01:30:31 PM PDT

  •  All of this voter suppression, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Vetwife, bear83

    no matter how "lenient" is just sickening. even if it is an indicator of the last desperate acts being put forward by a dying breed of authoritarian, fear-mongering bigots. They still have a lot of time to intimidate the disenfranchised while they sputter out.

  •  awesome concurrences (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    From the two-judge concurrence:

    The Section 5 process here did not force South Carolina to jump through unnecessary hoops. Rather, the history of Act R54 demonstrates the continuing utility of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act in deterring problematic, and hence encouraging non-discriminatory, changes in state and local voting laws.

    Election protection: there's an app for that!
    Better Know Your Voting System with the Verifier!

    by HudsonValleyMark on Wed Oct 10, 2012 at 04:42:56 PM PDT

  •  Political grandstanding by Nikki Haley (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    auron renouille, VA6thDem

    That's all this law is.

    She is so desperate to get into the inner circle of Tea Party Politics that she's willing to do any thing or pass law that "proves" her worth.

    Hence how this is the major legislative accomplishment she discussed at the Republican National Convention.

    A truly unqualified woman with aspirations that go well beyond her level of competence.

    •  She's always struck me as a somewhat better-spoken (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      version of Sarah Palin.  All form, no substance .  But I suspect that South Carolina would elect a decomposing rat if it were to be nominated to the Republican ticket.

      "The first drawback of anger is that it destroys your inner peace; the second is that it distorts your view of reality. If you come to understand that anger is really unhelpful, you can begin to distance yourself from anger." - The Dalai Lama

      by auron renouille on Wed Oct 10, 2012 at 05:12:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  She's just following history... (0+ / 0-)

      politically, SC is the giant zit on your wedding day; the hemorrhoid on the nation's behind (think April 1861)... old times there are not forgotten.

      "We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." - Louis D. Brandeis

      by VA6thDem on Wed Oct 10, 2012 at 06:34:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Look. I mean look at my Passport pic ;o) n/t (0+ / 0-)

    EVERYONE, including crazy Libertarians, should have a FEDERAL/NATIONAL PHOTO ID. This would work for voting, work permit, national health care, social security, education, military inscription, travel, signing contracts, buying property, opening a company, everything.

    It would be like other countries' cédula or DNI (documento nacional de identidad) that identifies EVERY citizen, resident alien and special visitor.

    It would be the same information as part of one's passport. The number/code/key would be long enough that it wouldn't have to be recycled for 200 years. And then, with the YEAR as part of the number, it would never have to be recycled. Eh?

    But, boys and girls, I bet I know who would object to the NATIONAL PHOTO ID, hehe.  REPUBLICANS. They would turn RED and bluster, should one of US "force" him or her to have a NATIONAL PHOTO ID.

    Meh. Romney.

    Ugh. --UB.

    "Daddy, every time a bell rings, a Libertaria­n picks up his Pan Am tickets for the Libertaria­n Paradise of East Somalia!"

    by unclebucky on Wed Oct 10, 2012 at 04:58:07 PM PDT

    •  Why? (0+ / 0-)

      Your proposing an enormous expansion of the federal government--probably several hundred billion dollars to implement, with another several billion per year therafter--why exactly?

      I think of plenty of much less expansive ways of preventing voter disenfranchisement and/or providing people with government issued photo IDs.

      •  We have the system already... (0+ / 0-)

        We have the federal state department Passports. We also have the state Photo IDs and and local Precinct Voting cards.

        Slide that effort all into one bucket, and you SAVE money by removing duplicate efforts, doncha know? :D

        I want YOU to be forced to have a National ID, to get work, education, national health care and purchasing ID. I want you to have to have what every other person does, regardless of how much money they stash in the Cayman Islands or scratches from selling cans and metal scraps.


        Ugh. --UB.

        "Daddy, every time a bell rings, a Libertaria­n picks up his Pan Am tickets for the Libertaria­n Paradise of East Somalia!"

        by unclebucky on Fri Oct 12, 2012 at 01:46:31 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Sounds like a good outcome, really. (0+ / 0-)

    Agree with gchaucer2 that there is some room for mischief on the affidavit but, in general, this seems OK.  With a good voter protection operation, even a scary affidavit can be handled, and Justice can always go back to court if the affidavit is designed to be unpalatable.

    "The first drawback of anger is that it destroys your inner peace; the second is that it distorts your view of reality. If you come to understand that anger is really unhelpful, you can begin to distance yourself from anger." - The Dalai Lama

    by auron renouille on Wed Oct 10, 2012 at 05:07:14 PM PDT

  •  Of course, (0+ / 0-)

    We don't want anything to get in the way of what you Democrats do best -

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