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.
“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.