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The Voting Rights Act Protects Two More States From Voter ID Laws | The Nation

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Voting Rights Watch

Voting Rights Watch

In-depth coverage of voter suppression efforts nationwide, in partnership with Colorlines.com.

The Voting Rights Act Protects Two More States From Voter ID Laws

Today, a federal court blocked South Carolina’s voter ID law for the 2012 elections, though it will be allowed to commence in 2013. According to the judges’ ruling, it is too close to the November election for effective implementation of South Carolina’s Act R54, which required voters to show a driver’s license, state-issued photo ID, passport, federal military photo ID or a photo voter registration card to vote. Before this law was passed, voters could show their voter registration card without a photo. The ruling states:

From the outset, the Court has pushed very hard to make a decision in time for the 2012 elections. We set an extremely aggressive trial schedule to accomplish that objective. Counsel for all parties have worked diligently, which the Court greatly appreciates. Unfortunately, as one might have anticipated in a case with this many entities involved, the parties ran into some discovery delays over the summer in trying to obtain relevant information. In the ordinary case, those minor and typical delays would not have been a big deal. In this case, those discovery delays pushed back the trial date by several weeks, with the voluntary consent of all parties. And that delay has in turn pushed back our date of decision. We need not belabor the point. At this late date, the Court is unable to conclude that South Carolina can implement Act R54 for the 2012 elections in a way that will suffice under the Voting Rights Act. [Emphasis added.]

US District Judge Collen Kollar-Kotelly noted in her concurring opinion that both the state and the civil rights attorneys challenging the state agreed that almost 130,000 voters in South Carolina lacked qualifying ID to vote, mostly people of color. Pointing that out, Kollar-Kottelly, who was appointed by conservative US Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist, credited the Voting Rights Act, and Section 5 in particular for protecting the rights of those voters of color, writing:

“one cannot doubt the vital function that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act has played here. Without the review process under the Voting Rights Act, South Carolina’s voter photo ID law certainly would have been more restrictive.”

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson has been defending the state’s voter ID law, which was first enacted in May 2011, and has been vocal about his opposition to Voting Rights Act’s Section 5 pre-clearance rules. Last week, Wilson participated in a news conference call with True the Vote where he said that the US Department of Justice, which initially refused to clear the voter ID law, has “an ulterior agenda to enforcing the law.”

Today, Wilson is calling the ruling “a major victory for South Carolina and its election process. It affirms our voter ID law is valid and constitutional under the Voting Rights Act.”

Similarly, the voter ID law passed in Mississippi was blocked last week by the Department of Justice on Voting Rights Act Section 5 grounds. Voters in that state will not have to show photo ID in November, but the law is still under review for whether they will have to show it in future elections.

Voting rights protections are especially needed in Mississippi where the head of the state’s tea party chapter, Janis Lane, told Jackson Free Press reporter Ryan L. Nave that women don’t deserve to vote. As Lane told Nave:

“Probably the biggest turn we ever made was when the women got the right to vote. … Our country might have been better off if it was still just men voting. There is nothing worse than a bunch of mean, hateful women. They are diabolical in how than can skewer a person. I do not see that in men. The whole time I worked, I’d much rather have a male boss than a female boss. Double-minded, you never can trust them.”

Further, while Missisippi’s voter ID law is not in effect for November, the Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann has failed to update the state’s voters about this fact. Writes the Jackson Free Press:

What Hosemann has irresponsibly failed to do is explicitly tell Mississippi voters—and potential poll workers—that voter ID is not required this election. There is no statement that we can find on the SOS’ website nor have we seen a press release alerting people that photo ID is unnecessary this time around. Instead, what we’ve seen are misleading posters offering help in securing ID, which falsely implies one is needed.

View Mississippi’s voter ID outreach website here.

—Brentin Mock

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