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Washington, D.C. (March 27, 2012) – The League of Women Voters of South Carolina urged a federal district court to reject the state’s restrictive voter ID law, arguing the law erects unnecessary barriers to voting and could disenfranchise thousands of minority voters.
The League, which is seeking to intervene in South Carolina v. Holder, is represented by the Brennan Center for Justice, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and pro bono by the law firms Sullivan & Cromwell LLP and Derfner, Altman & Wilborn LLC.
Under the federal Voting Rights Act, changes to South Carolina’s election laws must be “pre-cleared” by the Department of Justice or a D.C federal court. After the Justice Department rejected South Carolina’s voter ID law because of its discriminatory effect on minority voters, South Carolina sued in federal court.
The Justice Department recently rejected a Texas photo ID law and opposed Florida’s law restricting community-based voter registration, early voting, and election-day address updates. The D.C. Court is currently considering both of those cases. Two state court judges recently found Wisconsin’s photo ID law violated the state constitution.
“As restrictive voting laws continue to pass nationwide, we are pleased to see the Justice Department and state courts stand up for voters,” said Keesha Gaskins, senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice. “Discriminatory laws like South Carolina’s have no place in America — they disenfranchise voters, particularly minorities. We are pleased Attorney General Eric Holder stepped in to reject this law, and we urge the federal court to do the same.”
“Voting is the most sacred part of our democracy,” said Barbara Zia, co-president of the League of Women Voters South Carolina. “By restricting this fundamental right, engaged citizens must now jump through hoops to make their voices heard. This law affects real voters and must be rejected,” added League Co-President Peggy Brown.
“The State’s own data show that South Carolina’s photo ID requirement could prevent many thousands of eligible voters from casting a ballot, a disproportionate share of whom will be racial minorities,” said Bob Kengle, Co-Director of the Voting Rights Project at the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, in Washington, D.C. “Proposed voting changes that harm minority voting rights violate Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, and this attempt to place an unnecessary hurdle between the voter and the ballot is a case in point why Section 5 remains one of our most important civil rights laws.”
“In the last decade, Congress reauthorized the Voting Rights Act with bipartisan support, and President George W. Bush signed it into law,” said Armand Derfner of Derfner, Altman & Wilborn. “This critical legislation is more important than ever to protect minority voting rights in this country.”
The South Carolina law is just one in a wave of restrictive voting measures that passed in 2011. Together, these laws could make it harder for up to 5 million people to vote this November, according to the Brennan Center’s report Voting Law Changes in 2012.
Contact: Barbara Zia, ZiaB1@comcast.net