Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Study Shows South Carolina Voter ID Law Hits Minorities Hardest, Violating Voting Rights Act

By Marie Diamond/think progress

As ThinkProgress has been reporting, a slew of Voter ID laws pushed by Republican legislators in several states are a transparent attempt to disenfranchise core Democratic voters, especially the poor, college students, and minorities. In May, South Carolina became the 10th state to adopt this legislation.
The ACLU warned that “nearly 180,000 voters in South Carolina – most of whom are elderly, student, minority or low-income voters – will be disenfranchised as a result of this discriminatory bill.” The NAACP added that it “immediately disenfranchises eight percent of registered voters in the state.”
Those predictions are already coming true. A study by the Associated Press finds that South Carolina’s law hits minority precincts the hardest:
A new South Carolina voter identification law is impacting majority-black precincts more than others in the state, according to a study by the Associated Press.
The measure requires that every person have photo ID of some kind when they vote, whether it is a driver’s license, military ID or passport, the AP wrote. The law has been under review by the Department of Justice to see if it violates the Voting Rights Act.
The AP found that many voters in majority-black counties in South Carolina do not have proper identification — and the percentage of minority voters without the right identification is higher in those areas than other precincts statewide.
In Richland County, the state’s second-most populous county, there are 11,087 nonwhite voters without ID, and 4,544 in Orangeburg County. According to AP, this means that half of those impacted in Richland — and 73 percent in Orangeburg –are non-white voters.
Under Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the burden of proof is on southern states with a legacy of racial oppression to prove that legal changes will not have a discriminatory impact on minority voters. The AP study appears to confirm that South Carolina’s Voter ID law violates the VRA.
Voter ID laws have been widely denounced as the reincarnation of a Jim Crow system that systematically disenfranchised black voters. When the South Carolina House looked as if it would pass the legislation last year, “members of the Legislative Black Caucus and others stood up and walked out of the House chamber to show their collective disgust.”
Democrats say it’s no coincidence that Republicans renewed their disenfranchisement efforts after Barack Obama was elected president. “In 2008, we had too many black folk, too many brown folk, too many poor folk voting,” said South Carolina state Representative David J. Mack III. “They (Republicans) can’t have that in 2012.”
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