COLUMBIA, S.C. — The League of Women Voters and the NAACP on Wednesday became the latest groups allowed to take part in a legal challenge over South Carolina’s new voter identification law.
The groups join the American Civil Liberties Union as supporters of the U.S. Department of Justice in its defense against a lawsuit filed by South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson. A panel of three federal judges is considering the case, which is being heard in Washington.
The League wrote to the court last month, arguing that the law would be a hindrance to its Election Day duties of helping with a voter protection hotline and would also mean that the League is able to spend less time registering new voters and talking about the importance of casting ballots.
Attorneys for the NAACP said the law would keep black voters from being able to cast ballots and said it represents five black Benedict College students who wouldn’t be able to use their school-issued ID cards at the polls.
Passed by a Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by GOP Gov. Nikki Haley, the law requires voters to present government-issued photo IDs at the polls. The state is also required to determine how many voters lack state-issued IDs so that the Election Commission can inform them of the new law.
The Justice Department blocked the law in December, saying it could keep tens of thousands of the state’s minorities from casting ballots. Justice officials also said the law failed to meet requirements of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which requires the Justice Department to approve changes to South Carolina’s election laws because of the state’s past failure to protect blacks’ voting rights.
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson is suing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, arguing the law is not discriminatory and is similar to one in Indiana that has already been upheld.
A scheduling conference in the case is set for April 13. The judges have also asked Wilson to file court papers identifying the latest date on which the photo ID requirement must become effective to apply to the November 2012 elections.