In a move with significant implications for the 2012 elections, the Obama administration on Fridayblocked a South Carolina voter ID law from taking effect because of concerns that it would have a disproportionate effect on minority voters.
The law, which was passed last spring by the South Carolina state legislature and signed by Governor Nikki Haley, requires voters to present some form of photo ID, such as a driver’s license, passport, or military identification, along with their voter’s registration.
According to Reuters, “The Justice Department said the requirement could harm the right to vote of tens of thousands of people, noting that just over a 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 … [and] disproportionately unlikely to possess the most common types of photo identification,” the head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, Thomas Perez, wrote to the state.
Perez also noted that South Carolina had not offered evidence of any type of voter fraud that could not be handle by existing laws but would be “deterred by requiring voters to present only photo identification at the polls.”
South Carolina is one of a number of states with a history of institutionalized discrimination which continue to be required under 1960′s civil rights legislation to obtain approval from the Justice Department for any redistricting or changes in state voting laws. Changes in Florida and Texas are currently under review for the same reason.
The Justice Department has indicated that its decision may be reconsidered if South Carolina provides a satisfactory plan to provide exemptions to the photo ID requirement.