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Justice Department rejects South Carolina voter ID law


This news story was published on December 23, 2011.
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By Adam Beam, McClatchy Newspapers –

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The U.S. Justice Department has rejected South Carolina’s controversial voter ID law.

South Carolina officials can appeal the ruling, but until then the law would be “legally unenforceable,” according to a letter send to the South Carolina attorney general’s office.

“This is the best Christmas gift I have gotten in a long time,” said state Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Darlington, who has lead the charge against the bill for state Democrats.

The law would require voters to show a valid photo identification before voting in an election. South Carolina officials said the purpose was to “combat voter fraud.”

But in his letter to the South Carolina attorney general’s office, U.S. Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez noted that “the state’s submission did not include any evidence or instance of either in-person voter impersonation or any other type of fraud that is not already addressed by the state’s existing voter identification requirement and that arguably could be deterred by rearguing voters to present only photo identification at the polls.”

Perez also noted that South Carolina’s minority voters are “20 percent more likely to lack DMV-issued ID than white registered voters, and thus to be effectively disenfranchised.”

Perez was using data from the South Carolina Election Commission, which notes that 239,333 of the state’s registered voters, or 8.9 percent, do not have DMV-issued IDs.

But the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles had disputed those numbers, noting that more than 200,000 of those voters either live in other states, have allowed their IDs to expire, have licenses with names that don’t match voter records or were dead, according to a report from the Associated Press.

But Perez said when the Justice Department questioned South Carolina officials about these numbers, “the state did not provide any data whatsoever refuting the fact, demonstrated by the state’s earlier data, that minority registered voters are about 20 percent more likely than white registered voters to lack DMV-issued identification.”

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