ACLU asks to join lawsuit over South Carolina's voter ID law

Groups says voters can't get needed ID

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COLUMBIA — The American Civil Liberties Union on Friday asked a federal judge for permission to get involved in a lawsuit over South Carolina’s new voter ID law, saying it represents three voters who have been unable to get the photo identification required by the law in order to vote.

The state is suing to overturn the U.S. Justice Department’s rejection of the law in December.

The agency said tens of thousands of the state’s minorities might not be able to cast ballots under the new law because they don’t have the right photo ID.

It was the first such law to be refused by the federal agency in nearly 20 years.

One of the voters, a white woman, had to hire an attorney to help her get documents including a marriage license, divorce decree and original birth certificate so that she could get the right South Carolina identification, which she still doesn’t have, the ACLU argued in a motion filed Friday.

Two black voters don’t have the money to hire the attorneys the ACLU says they would need to help get delayed birth certificates.

“The outcome of this action may, as both a legal and practical matter, impair or impede applicants’ ability to protect their interests,” attorneys for the ACLU wrote. “These applicants will be unable to vote on in-person election day and, as a result, will be limited solely to casting absentee ballots.”

The ACLU also represents Brenda Williams, a black woman who runs a South Carolina-based nonprofit group that helps people register to vote. Under the new law, the ACLU argued, Williams would be forced to spend her time and resources trying to make sure people have the right IDs rather than registering new voters.

The Department said the new law failed to meet requirements of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which also 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.

Earlier this month, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson sued U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, arguing the U.S. Justice Department was wrong to reject the law enacted last year. In the lawsuit, Wilson asks that a panel of three federal judges consider the case and declare that the rejected portions of the law are not discriminatory.

Wilson also noted that South Carolina’s law is similar to one in Indiana that has already been upheld as constitutional, saying that at least 31 states require voters to show some sort of ID at the polls, and 15 states have enacted photo ID requirements. Since 1988, South Carolina law has required voters to show either a voter registration card or some sort of government-issued ID to be allowed to vote on a regular ballot.

The federal government has not responded to Wilson’s lawsuit. The ACLU said it has already had similar motions granted in other voting rights cases, including in Arizona, Georgia and North Carolina.

“South Carolina’s voter ID law is a prime example why the Voting Rights Act is necessary and relevant today,” said Nancy Abudu, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Voting Rights Project. “If it were not for the protections that the Voting Rights Act provides, South Carolina and many other states would enact discriminatory voting laws that make it harder for minorities to vote.”

Passed by a Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by GOP Gov. Nikki Haley, South Carolina’s law also required the state to determine how many voters lack state-issued IDs so that the Election Commission can inform them of law changes. The Department of Motor Vehicles will issue free state photo identification cards to those voters.

The federal review of South Carolina’s law sparked a dustup between state agencies over the number of residents who lack state-issued IDs. On Thursday, the Election Commission said its review of allegations that fraudulent votes were cast using the names of dead people found no evidence that any such ballots were cast. The commission reviewed information provided by the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles and found clerical errors, poor data matching, errors in assigning voter participation and voters dying after being issued an absentee ballot as reasons for the confusion, Executive Director Marci Andino said. She said 207 out of 953 suspect cases were reviewed in detail.

Earlier this year, DMV Executive Director Kevin Shwedo told House members an analysis of voter ID data found 953 people who appeared to have voted after their death.

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ConcernedTaxpayer 02/25/12 - 07:00 am
I'll bet they don't have any

I'll bet they don't have any trouble getting ID to collect food stamps and welfare.

allhans 02/25/12 - 09:39 am
I disagree with those who

I disagree with those who think that because it is South Carolina, a deep south state, that the citizens are uneducated (or worse).
The residents of SC can and do manage to get their I.D. cards just fine, thank you.

JRC2024 02/25/12 - 10:13 am
Concerned, that was the exat

Concerned, that was the exat thought I had. Sounds like a bunch of whooey to me.

avidreader 02/25/12 - 10:51 am
It amazes me that some

It amazes me that some peoples' lives are in such disarray that they cannot produce a birth certificate or a SS card. Why not allow the power companies to intercede. If a person's been paying a power bill for thirty years (or whatever length of reasonable time), then I would consider it proof-enough to get a photo ID. What's the big deal? Is this law geared more toward the swarm of illegal immigrants, or a few displaced African-Americans without a birth certificate?

If the ACLU is so concerned, why not simply fight for the process of receiving the photo ID instead of attempting to defeat the entire legislation?

I'm a fairly liberal guy when it comes to the civil rights of all citizens; however, if a citizen cannot obtain a valid photo ID then maybe this person does not deserve to vote. I am in favor of the law. It may be a short-term problem, but overall, every seventeen-year old who registers to vote from now on will understand the need to comply and soon enough, the problem will be resolved.

To quote a thousand others who have commented on this situation: "You have to have a photo ID to cash a check; why not to vote?"

Will someone please enlighten me, and help me understand. I'm sure I'm missing something.

rmwhitley 02/25/12 - 12:07 pm
Once you've given a society

Once you've given a society the freedom of legalized extortion, you have no way of upholding fair and true laws. What organization ( now known by any number of names) did the Massah obama extort for, with the rev. wright? Some kind of nut, wasn't it? That nut is now the Elm in the living room.

Bruno 02/25/12 - 12:40 pm
You don't need an attorney to

You don't need an attorney to get a copy of your birth certificate, marriage license, or divorce decree.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 02/27/12 - 09:53 am
Exactly, Bruno. I had to get

Exactly, Bruno. I had to get a copy of my birth certificate a few years ago (before the Obama birth certificate flap), and all it took was a letter to the vital statistics office in the state where I was born.

I would say that if these people cannot get the information proving who they are, then it is just possible that they are not who they claim to be and are possibly intent on committing voter fraud. The law should be upheld.

And for a technical legal matter, the white woman referred to in paragraph 5 should be omitted from the lawsuit for a lack of standing. Why? Because the Voting Rights Act of 1965 does not apply to her. That law grants special rights only to African-Americans. That white woman has no dog in this fight.

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