COLUMBIA — South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said Tuesday that federal officials are waging war with South Carolina over laws the people want, like new voter ID requirements that she and other leaders pledged to defend from challenges by the U.S. Justice Department.
Attorney General Alan Wilson said his office will file a lawsuit in federal court within the next two weeks to defend the voter ID law against Justice Department challenges.
The Republican governor said “the will of the people was we wanted to protect the integrity of our voting process and if you have to show a picture ID to buy Sudafed; if you have to show a picture ID to get on a plane – you should have to show a picture ID to do that one thing that’s so important – which is that right to vote.”
The bill passed last year with broad support from Republicans, who said it would be a check on voting fraud. But Democrats said it would suppress voter turnout by making it tougher on people who lacked identification, including the poor, elderly and blacks.
Haley said legislators addressed that by making state-issued photographic IDs free and noted less than 30 people took the state’s offer of rides to get ID cards. While nearly 217,000 active voters lacked state ID, the state didn’t produce a list of those names until well after the offer expired and now questions the reliability of the list altogether.
The Justice Department seized on questions about how voters lacking ID would be handled and has refused to clear the law, a requirement in states like South Carolina that have a history of voting rights problems.
But Haley said the challenge “is the continued war on South Carolina.”
She said the voter ID fight is similar to the National Labor Relations Board challenging Boeing Co. as it planned to open a North Charleston plant and a recent Justice Department challenge to a new law requiring police to check the immigration status of people in traffic stops.
“This has got to stop. So you will see us fight and you will see us fight hard,” Haley said.
State Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Columbia, said the state’s challenges are a waste of money.
Rutherford said Republicans are using bogus justifications for the law.
For instance, he said, there is no protection in the constitution for people to buy drugs, but there is protection of the right to vote. “All they have done is create a problem that there was not before,” Rutherford said.