The Justice Department on Friday moved to block South Carolina’s voter ID law, saying it unfairly burdens non-white voters.
In blocking the law, the Barack Obama administration said the state’s law, requiring voters to show specific types of state-issued identification in order to vote, could make it difficult for minorities to cast a ballot.
Under the law, anyone who does not have a photo identification must obtain a new voter registration card that includes a photo. A birth certificate or passport can be used to prove identity.
The Justice Department said the requirement could harm the right to vote of tens of thousands of people, noting that just over one-third of the state’s minorities who are registered voters did not have a driver’s license needed to cast a ballot.
“The state’s data demonstrate that non-white voters are both significantly burdened” by the law and “disproportionately unlikely to possess the most common types of photo identification” needed, Thomas Perez, head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, said in a letter to the state.
The state can appeal the decision at the Justice Department or in federal court.
Democrats have accused Republican legislators in South Carolina and other states of passing voter ID laws in order to suppress the votes of minorities, young people and others who typically vote Democratic, and who are less likely to have the required types of identification, in an attempt to reduce the votes available to Obama and Democratic lawmakers in 2012.
Republicans claim the laws are needed to prevent voter fraud, though they have produced no evidence of widespread elections fraud based on showing false ID.
The move by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division will likely increase partisan tensions as the election season kicks into high gear. From
The issue could inflame partisan and racial tensions ahead of South Carolina’s Republican presidential primary, set for Jan. 21. Some conservatives have attacked the DOJ for blocking state laws on illegal immigration, and this is likely to increase their criticisms.
Eight states have passed similar laws in recent months: Wisconsin, Mississippi, Texas, Kansas, Alabama, Rhode Island, and Tennessee.
States like South Carolina that are subject to the 1965 Voting Rights Act are from the Justice Department when passing laws that could impact minority voters.