“(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.