“Voter ID is not a problem. Everybody that goes to vote shows some form of ID,” Clyburn said. “The big problem has been the process…you go through to get there.”
Was this just a super-regrettable error, another poor choice of words—today he was rebuked by the Obama campaign for accusing Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital of “raping” companies—or is Clyburn throwing in the towel on the voter ID fight?
I wasn’t able to get clarity from the congressman himself. His office informed me that the proper context for his statement was that the problem is with the states that are administering the laws—for example, states that allow concealed weapon IDs to vote, but not student IDs. But you’d have to forgive someone if they weren’t able to derive that context from the statement Clyburn actually made. For voting rights advocates, it sounded like Clyburn threw voter ID proponents a free ticket. I can already see True the Vote making T-shirts out of the statement with a picture of Clyburn with Martin Luther King.
Clyburn’s state, South Carolina, is currently embroiled in a legal battle with the US Department of Justice over a photo voter ID law that Governor Nikki Haley signed into law last year. The law was blocked because DOJ found that over 230,000 residents, mostly African-Americans, lacked the proper ID needed for voting, and the state failed to produce any evidence of the voter fraud they said they needed the law for. South Carolina sued DOJ in response and federal judges are still deliberating the case.
But Clyburn’s pessimism around overturning the photo voter ID law began earlier this month. Speaking to Democrat activists in early May, Clyburn—who has a long history of overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles to civil and voting rights—said, “I just do not trust the judiciary that we’re operating under.” In other words, he told them they’d better organize, because it ain’t looking good with the men in robes.