For Immediate Release
Civil Rights Groups Again Ask Government to Block South Carolina Voter ID Law
Coalition Calls the Law Racially Discriminatory; Asks Justice Department to Intervene
CHARLESTON, SC - A coalition of civil rights and advocacy groups has again asked the U. S. Department of Justice to block a South Carolina law that would prevent registered voters from casting ballots at the polls on Election Day unless they have government-approved photo identification.
In an eight-page letter sent this week, groups including the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights under Law, the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina, argue the law would disproportionately affect minority voters and thus would suppress the minority vote.
The coalition's letter charges that the proposed change to voting requirements in the state is "unprecedented" in scope and will affect at least 216,596 registered voters-many of them minority, elderly or disabled--who lack a photo ID.
Further, the letter notes that the state has failed to prove the law does not discriminate against minority voters and has not made provisions for a voter education program that would eliminate the racial disparity.
"The state's own data show that the photo ID requirement would have a negative impact on minority voters, and the state has provided no justification for this new barrier to voting," said Robert Kengle, co-director of the Voting Rights Project of the Lawyers' Committee.
Also signing onto the letter are the Brennan Center for Justice, the League of Women Voters of South Carolina, and Charleston attorney Armand Derfner.
"Bad laws like this one limit the pool of eligible voters and make it harder for Americans to cast a ballot," said Victoria Middleton, executive director of the ACLU of South Carolina. "They represent a giant step backwards in a decades-long struggle to end discrimination."
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 requires states with a history of voter suppression, including South Carolina, to get approval from the Justice Department for changes in their voting laws. The law cannot take effect until that approval is granted.
"The voter ID requirement has the potential to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters who were able to legally cast their ballots in 2010. The scope of this supplementary registration scheme is unparalleled in South Carolina's history since the 1960s," added Katie O'Connor, an attorney with the ACLU Voting Rights Project.
The full letter can be read here: http://www.lawyerscommittee.
The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. The principal mission of the Lawyers' Committee is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice under law.