Today a federal court upheld South Carolina
’s contested “Voter ID
” law, but said it can’t be enforced in this year’s elections.
“(G)iven the short time left before the 2012 election, and given the numerous steps necessary to properly implement the law…we do not grant pre-clearance for the 2012 elections,” Judge Brett Cavanaugh wrote
in the ruling.
In November, voters can still use their voter registration cards and other non-state IDs in order to participate in the general election.
This allows the 239,000 affected voters in the state to cast ballots this year, but not in future elections unless they acquire an approved photo identification.
State legislature passed the law in May 2011
, but the U.S. Dept. of Justice ruled against it later that year
, stating the “Voter ID” requirement was restrictive and also discriminatory in application.
Using claims of votes cast in the names of deceased citizens
, state Attorney Gen. Alan Wilson pursued the case, which wound up in D.C.’s U.S. District Court.
Response to the court’s ruling has been mixed. Republican officials who helped enter and pass the law in state legislature offer an expected praise for the decision, which Wilson calls
“a major victory.”
The version approved by the three-judge panel is not the same as the original state law, however, as attorney J. Gerald Hebert, who represented those opposed to Voter ID, points out.
“Ultimately the law that the court has approved for 2013 and beyond is a huge departure from the bill enacted by the South Carolina Legislature,” Hebert said
The original bill
required voters to provide government-issued photo ID in order to cast ballots.
In the variation offered during the case by Wilson, voters without identification will still be allowed to vote after simply signing a form explaining why they do not have any of the five approved IDs at the time.
Without this accommodation, the court would not have ruled in favor of Voter ID, Judge Cavanaugh stated.
Many others aren’t satisfied with the variation, however, calling today’s court decision only a temporary victory that will expire next year.
“We’re glad that thousands of voters who faced being denied access to the polls will get to vote next month, but are concerned about what lies ahead,” said Nancy Abudu
, an attorney with the ACLU.
Over 239,000 South Carolinians are registered to vote, but lack any of the required formats of photo ID.Bobbie Rose
, Democratic candidate for the 1st Congressional Dist., is also dissatisfied with the decision.
“While I’m glad the ruling won’t affect voters this year, it’s still deeply disturbing how much of an obstacle this creates for South Carolina voters in the future, especially seniors,” Rose says.
“Once you’re 65, you don’t need to renew a license after it expires unless you’re still driving. Banks and even courts still have to accept those IDs, too. Those seniors must now have their IDs renewed, though, and will even face costs of acquiring the documentation needed to prove their identity. That’s the equivalent of a poll tax.”
Rose says the law will disproportionately affect minorities, and will also affect young voters, too. “Less than two-thirds of 18-year-olds have a license
,” Rose says, “and their student IDs won’t be acceptable when they want to vote or register to vote.”
The state Democratic Party “strongly disagrees with the court’s opinion,” as well, even alluding that today’s decision might not be final.
SCDP “is hopeful that the United States Supreme Court will resolve the differences between various Voter ID cases around the country,” party chair Dick Harpootlian said this afternoon.
Next week, state attorney general Alan Wilson will attempt to contest the U.S. Dept. of Justice’s rejection of South Carolina’s “voter ID” law.
The case is taking a new twist, however, thanks to the AG of another state.
Today, Arizona’s Thomas Horne filed an amicus brief
with the Supreme Court, claiming that one particular part of the Voting Rights Act unfairly affects the nine states that are subject to its laws.
Section Five of the Act notes that any change to voting laws in subject states must be approved by the federal government.
Some other states not subject to VRA, though, have already changed their own laws pertaining to voting and didn’t require federal approval for those changes, Horne notes.
Different formats of voter identification requirements are used in some of those other states, Horne notes, and the federal government didn’t interfere in those cases. Minority voters are still subject to discrimination in those states, too, he says.
Because South Carolina and nine other states are the only ones subject to the Voting Rights Act, Horne concludes, it has unfairly lost its own right to discriminate. Section Five of the VRA “undermines the principal of equal sovereignty,” he says
“Because the VRA’s purpose is to eradicate voting discrimination for all United States citizens, treating States differently is not congruent with the Act’s purpose.”
In other words, Horne says that if they can do it, so can we.
What Horne overlooks, however – and right along with South Carolina’s Alan Wilson and all of the state legislature that first voted for this bill back in May 2011
– is that the state already had requirements for voters to present identification before being allowed to partake in an election. Citizens had to provide a voter registration card, a driver’s license, student ID or other means to clarify their identity before being allowed to vote.
The new law, which the Dept. of Justice overruled last December
, attempted to restrict the format of acceptable ID to that of a picture-bearing card issued by the state. Had it been accepted, over 239,000 South Carolinians – who were already registered, mind you – would have lost their right to vote.
The other states that incorporated new voter identification requirements still accepted practically all other formats of ID, including the ones South Carolina was set to refuse – student IDs, non-picture IDs and even expired drivers’ licenses (which senior citizens do not have to legally renew, provided they no longer operate a motor vehicle). And in those other states, anyone lacking such identification could still vote; poll workers could simply verify the voter’s signature with the original registration on file.
In the Palmetto State, however, the law demanded that no vote could be cast without an unexpired, state photo ID. Not only did this disproportionately affect minority voters and senior citizens, but the state Dept. of Motor Vehicles made it worse
by even blocking renewal of licenses for some, even denying them to many new residents
Wilson and the DMV partnered up shortly after to continue their goal, claiming that 900 dead citizens were listed to have voted in the last election
. The humility they suffered when the state election commission proved them wrong in each and every case, though, apparently didn’t set in.
Now armed with support from Arizona’s attorney general, Wilson’s case will be heard by a federal appeals court from Aug. 27 to 31
Let’s hope that Horne’s argument – which blatantly calls for equal rights to discriminate – gets Wilson’s appeal shot down again.
, South Carolina enacted new law requiring registered voters to provide a state-issued photo ID in order to cast their ballots.
A review by the U.S. Dept. of Justice, required by the Voting Rights Act, overturned that law
in December, however, on basis the law would unfairly affect rural, disabled, elderly and minority voters.
The state quickly began its challenge to that overturn, though, claiming the restrictions this Voter ID law imposed were necessary. And as proof, State Atty. Gen. Alan Wilson stated records were found that indicate 900 deceased voters had their votes counted
in recent elections.
Today, however, those claims by Wilson and his state Dept. of Motor Vehicles source were found to be rather dead themselves.
At a hearing before the House Election Laws Subcommittee, the State Election Committee revealed only six incidents of dead voter claims provided by the Atty. Gen.’s office. Sinking the argument further, not one of the incidents supported Wilson’s claims, according to data provided by SEC Exec. Director Marci Anderson.
In a press release
, SEC offered the following review of those six incidents discussed in testimony this morning:
- "One was an absentee ballot cast by a voter who then died before election day;
- Another was the result of an error by a poll worker who mistakenly marked the voter as Samuel Ferguson, Jr. when the voter was in fact Samuel Ferguson, III;
- Two were the result of stray marks on the voter registration list detected by the scanner – again, a clerical error;
- The final two were the result of poll managers incorrectly marking the name of the voter in question instead of the voter listed either above or below on the list."
As a result, not one of these six incidents – which were the only ones provided after Wilson claimed record of over 900 – indicates voter fraudulence.
The particular elections in which these votes were cast weren’t specified.
The SEC also searched for votes cast by dead voters in the recent presidential primary, Andino stated. From a list of 37,000 names the DMV said are deceased voters, only 10 were found to have participated in that January 21 election.
In immediate follow-up by the SEC, “each of these 10 voters (was) confirmed to be alive,” the state office’s press release reads. Their signatures from the voting registry that day were confirmed to be valid, too.
Had South Carolina’s Voter ID law remained in effect, over 239,000 registered voters
would be denied their right to vote in this year’s elections.
Lee Walter Jenkins (photo by Rob Groce)
This evening’s “The Power Hour” on 1230 AM radio has a whole new angle from its regular shows: instead of discussing how South Carolinians’ rights are being tangled into yet another knot, special guest Lee Walter Jenkins will tell how one just got untied.
Beginning at 6 p.m., Jenkins will join guest-host David Calef to talk about the recent block to a questionable law that alienated many voters.
Columbia listeners can tune-in to WOIC 1230 AM, and others across the country can listen from the station’s website. (Click here
and then use the “listen live” link on that page.)
On Dec. 23, the Dept. of Justice submitted notice to the state that its Voter ID law, enacted in May, could not be used
. The new law would prevent almost a quarter-million voters from participating in elections, DOJ noted in its review, and would also disproportionately affect minority citizens.
Jenkins’ part of the state would have been far more affected, too. Marion County
, whose Democratic Party he serves as chair, is dominantly African-American
In its notice to the state Attorney General’s office, DOJ wrote
“minority registered voters are about 20 percent more likely than white registered voters to lack DMV-issued identification.”
Calef, whose regular “Inside Politics” show airs Sundays at 6 p.m. on WOIC, is filling in for regular “The Power Hour” host Lopez Martinez.
Earlier this year, Jenkins was a dark-horse candidate for chair
of the state Democratic Party.
South Carolina's recent "Voter ID" law has been rejected by the U.S. Dept. of Justice.
In letter issued today, Asst. Sec. Thomas E. Perez explained that the state could not enforce the law because it would unfairly affect minorities, restricting their legal right to vote. (Full letter attached below.)
As a result, voters in the state will only need to present a voter registration card in order to vote. A drivers’ license or other state ID can still be used.
Signed into law by Gov. Nikki Haley in early May
, the bill
required all voters to show a state-issued picture ID at the polls in order to participate in elections. However, and as the state legislature itself admitted at that time, 178,000 currently registered voters were without such photo identification. As DOJ researched the situation further, the number rose to 239,333.
Not only would the Voter ID law have alienated college students, seniors and disabled citizens, but it would disproportionately affect minorities, who “constituted 34.2% of registered voters who did not have the requisite DMV-issued identification to vote,” DOJ said in its letter to the state.
“(M)inority registered voters are about 20% more likely than white registered voters to lack DMV-issued identification,” Perez wrote.
Voters attempting to acquire photo IDs faced difficulties, too. Included in reported stories to date:
- A senior citizen and registered voter was denied renewal of his driver’s license. Larry Butler was affronted with requests for additional documentation, including birth certificate and school records, all of which were refused when provided. Butler was born in a rural part of the state that didn’t provide birth certificates with a state seal. Butler also said Dept. of Motor Vehicles challenged his legal name.
- Another South Carolina native who recently moved back to her home state was denied a driver’s license. Delores Freelon’s ID from her previous state of residence was rejected, even though other state offices including the Medicaid office had already accepted it. Her South Carolina birth certificate was refused, too, because her parents were immediately undecided on her first name. Only “baby girl” was listed on the official document, a common practice in state records at that time.
- Another senior took up Gov. Haley’s televised offer for aid in getting a copy of his birth certificate. When he called the governor’s office, staff told Robert Tucker they didn’t know what he was talking about, and refused to help.
- A resident who recently moved back to her birth-state of South Carolina was at first denied a driver’s license, and only given one after challenging DMV staff. She provided her birth certificate, military records, Social Security card and even her new motor vehicle registration, which showed her name and current address. She was continually told to bring more records, however. Only after arguing with DMV was she allowed to receive a new license.
DOJ had attempted to work with the state in its required review of the law, but didn’t get much cooperation, it says. South Carolina submitted its “Voter ID” law for review in late June, including data from the State Election Commission on the number of registered voters in danger of alienation. When DOJ requested additional information within a 60-day period, it only received response 55 days later, and from an entirely different state office (Dept. of Motor Vehicles) that challenged the validity of SEC’s data.
“We followed up with you immediately by telephone,” Perez wrote, “but the state offered no additional documentation.”
The potential rejection of the Voter ID law was already established. In August, DOJ stated
the new law couldn’t be enforced in the November elections, and due to the state’s failure to issue new IDs in timely fashion. Earlier this month, Atty. Gen. Eric Holder spoke skeptically
of the law.
South Carolina had already been rated last in voter accessibility
earlier this year.
A recently-passed state law requiring voters to present photo IDs could be delayed.
Passed in May, the new law directly affects 178,000 registered voters in South Carolina who are without, or with expired, state-issued photo identification cards.
The problem with the new law is the length of time it could take that high number of residents to receive new IDs. As a result, it can’t be enforced in elections this year, the U.S. Dept. of Justice said on Tuesday.
Robert Cook, deputy attorney general with DOJ, declared “such short time period is beyond the voter’s control.”
South Carolina's new law is yet to be formally approved by DOJ, which is required under the Voting Rights Act. A final ruling on its future use should be issued by the end of the month.
The state Election Commission agrees with Cook. Marci Andino, SEC exec. director, says there isn’t enough time to inform those particular voters before for the next elections in the state.
Municipal elections in the state are scheduled for as early as later this month; 10 different races in Charleston County alone take place
on Nov. 8.
Making the transition even more difficult, Andino says, is the state’s lack of equipment to produce voter identification cards with photos, a planned project still underway
in compliance with the new law.
“We’re waiting to find out if we get preclearance before we spend any money,” she told
South Carolinians seeking to comply with the new law are facing many difficulties, as well. Recent applications for state IDs by affected persons have been rejected
or delayed for reasons ranging from non-certified birth certificates to change of name by marriage.
The 178,000 registered voters without current IDs are supposed to receive new ones at no cost, according to the new Voter ID law. The costs of acquiring the documents requested by the Dept. of Motor Vehicles in order to get such ID have neared $1,000
in some cases.
A final DOJ ruling on use of the Voter ID law should be issued by the end of the month.
After signing a controversial Voter ID bill into law earlier this year, South Carolina’s Gov. Nikki Haley has been quick to rebut criticism with promises of aid.
"Find me those people who think that this is invading their rights — find — and I will go take them to the DMV myself and help them get that picture ID,” Haley told
Greenville’s FOX Carolina.
And just the other day Robert Tucker, a senior Carolinian and Army veteran, did just that.
But to no avail. He called the governor’s office, only to speak to staff who didn’t know what Tucker was talking about. Haley’s office declined to aid the senior.
Tucker, 76, can’t access his birth certificate.
(posted on youtube by SCDemParty
“I’m very disappointed the governor won’t help me with what I need to vote,” Tucker says reservedly.
Dick Harpootlian doesn’t hold back in his criticism, however. "Republican Nikki Haley has proved once again unable to tell the truth,” the chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party says.
“Whether she is misstating her job record, her own employment record or lying to Army veterans like Robert Tucker, it's obvious she just doesn't have it in her to tell the truth. She would rather climb a tree to tell a lie than stand on the ground and tell the truth."
In May, Haley signed H.3003
into law, requiring all voters to present state-issued photo identification at the polls in order to participate in elections.
Over 178,000 registered voters
in the state do not have a photo ID, however – that’s seven percent
of South Carolina voters who could be disenfranchised next election day.
Laws that require presentation of government-issued photo ID in order to vote are going into effect in other states, as well.
Sixteen U.S. senators recently requested
the Dept. of Justice to investigate the potential illegality of these voter ID laws.
“Studies have shown that as high as 11% of eligible voters nationwide do not have a government-issued ID. This percentage is higher for seniors, racial minorities, low-income voters and students,” Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo) wrote
in his letter to Attorney Gen. Eric Holder.
There is no record of voter impersonation in South Carolina or of any other type of false-voting situation that photo identification could prevent.
*** Also read: Potential loophole to Voter ID proposal, but challenge still needed, says SC ProNetColbert Report on Voter ID lawsVoter ID at the DMV in Wisconsin (and what it could mean in South Carolina)
A brave Wisconsin woman videotaped the ordeal of getting her son a Voter ID, which is now a minimum requirement for non-drivers in the state to participate in elections.
She and her son succeeded, but only after a long process that included need to show banking statements (which at first were rejected because they didn't show enough activity).
And after finally completing the endeavor, they were told to pay $28 (a poll tax?) even though the Voter ID's are supposed to be completely free.
(submitted to youtube by madtowngirl2
Given the similarities of Wisconsin's state government and governor to the same ones here in South Carolina, what are we to expect from our own new Voter ID bill
? We have 178,000 registered voters without current state-issued picture identification cards. We have ample record of persons who are unable to get certified copies of their birth certificates (a requirement to get those new IDs), and due to various reasons the state Republicans never bothered to consider, apparently.
, you need a birth certificate to get a South Carolina ID card; yet, you need a valid ID card to get a copy of your South Carolina birth certificate. How's that for a Catch 22?
to see videos telling the stories of a few Carolinians now pressed to spend as much as $1,000 to get their supposedly "free" state ID cards - they're about midway down on that page.)And even those with state-issued IDs could face problems on election day. South Carolina IDs are valid for 10 years, after all; how many will still resemble their 10-year-old ID pictures enough in order to be allowed to exercise their right to vote? And even though there might be a meager loophole
(mail-in absentee ballots), that loophole might be closed off by the time the next election comes around. One other key point displayed in this video: the subject is a young, white male in the northern state of Wisconsin, in which the Voting Rights Act has never needed enforcement. If this was so difficult for him, then what are older, minority South Carolinians going to face down yonder? Care to help our state overcome this photo ID sham, and avoid our state running as low as Wisconsin is at the moment? Then lend a hand to the South Carolina Progressive Network in its efforts.
(You can also issue comment
to the Dept. of Justice on this subject, too.)
Stephen Colbert provides an update on the sweep of Voter ID laws across the country, and which is only occurring in states with Republican governors and/or majorities in state congresses.
And what better location to include than his home state of South Carolina?
So why, exactly, does South Carolina need this new law? We already come in last in voting accessibility, after all. We've got very funky voting machines that provided highly questionable results last June. We even have Republicans in the Lowcountry who want to remove South Carolina, or at least its 1st Congressional District, from applicability to the Voting Rights Act. Add in the fact that there is NO RECORD OF ANY FALSE VOTING AT THE POLLS in our state, and - sheesh! It seems like the only way to get the SCGOP off the backs of citizens would be by planting its arse on the couch of a psychiatrist (extended inpatient counseling, mind you).
(There may still be a loophole
to this Voter ID law in South Carolina, but that could always change, too.)
The State Assembly recently passed a bill requiring all voters display a valid identification with photograph in order to participate on election days, a motion that leaves the voting rights of over 178,000 South Carolinians in jeopardy.
A voter who lacks a state-issued photo ID, or whose ID is expired, will not be able to cast a traditional vote on election days after the bill is officially enacted, following its review by the U.S. Dept. of Justice.
While many are attempting to challenge this measure before it goes into effect, there may still be a loophole, however – absentee voting by mail.
According to Chris Whitmire, Public Information Officer of the State Election Commission, currently registered voters can still apply for an absentee ballot, and without need to present an official identification. If a voter’s request for absentee is honored, his or her mail-in ballot will be accepted and counted with other election returns.
There are 11 different qualifications for absentee voting, including conflict with work schedule, any physical disability and simply being age 65 or older.
This method would allow the 178,000 currently at risk to cast their vote, and even without reapplication, Whitmire says.
“While (the SEC) will be required to submit a list of those voters (without current state-issued identification) at some point, it will not remove them from the list of registered voters,” he says. “For those already registered, they can apply for absentee voting without a picture ID.”
The only circumstance that would affect this absentee ballot option is if the voter had registered to vote by mail without copy of a photo ID, says Whitmire, and if that same voter had yet to vote in person. In such circumstances, a voter registering by this method is currently required to show picture ID the first time he or she votes.
This doesn’t appease the South Carolina Progressive Network
, however, which is organizing a formal contest to the Voter ID law.
In fact, this loophole might not even remain by the time the Voter ID law is potentially enacted, says Becci Robbins, Communications Director at SC ProNet. “Just because they’re telling everybody this now doesn’t mean (the loophole) will still be there after (Dept. of Justice) review.”
To contest the act, which passed both houses of the State Assembly and was later signed
by Gov. Haley on May 18, SC ProNet is collecting affidavits from affected voters to present to the U.S. Dept. of Justice.
Under the Voting Rights Act, South Carolina is one of nine states
required to have federal approval prior to any change in voting laws. After application for “pre-clearance” of the state’s Voter ID proposal, DOJ is to allow 60 days for public comment prior to final ruling on its acceptance.
To contest the proposal, including on grounds it could amount to minority discrimination, Robbins says SC ProNet is collecting affidavits from voters who will be affected by the bill. (A video of one particular circumstance can be viewed here
“You have to have a birth certificate to get a photo ID,” reads the SC ProNet website, however “you must have a photo ID to get a birth certificate,” resulting in a Catch 22 of sorts.
And while the Voter ID proposal would provide new state-issued, non-driver’s license identification cards at no cost, it greatly overlooks the costs for needed documents and their acquisition, Robbin says. The fees to obtain necessary documentation for those IDs, such as a duplicate birth certificate, could range from $12 to over $1,000, SC ProNet states
SC ProNet requests affected voters not accept this absentee vote loophole, and encourages those who may lose their right to vote under this new Voter ID bill to contact their office for inclusion in the affidavit it will file. Volunteers to aid in collection of affidavits are also requested.
SC ProNet can be contacted by telephone (803-808-3384) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org
Instructions to file request for absentee ballot by mail can be viewed at the SEC website