In the aftermath of Thursday’s walkout by black legislators over a House vote to approve a bill requiring state voters to show photo identification at polling places, Chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, Sumter County Representative David Weeks says the measure is an obvious attempt by House Republicans to narrow the electorate by making it more difficult for minorities, the elderly and disabled to exercise their constitutional right to vote. Weeks says if the measure passes the Senate, he is contemplating the use of several avenues to block the bill from becoming state law. Weeks says the first step would be to contact the U.S. Justice Department.
Weeks says “South Carolina is still under section five of the Voting Rights Act, so we still have to get Justice Department approval, which is commonly referred to as preclearance, before any election law changes take effect, and so out first action would be to communicate with the Justice Department.”
Weeks says the U.S. Justice Department can be requested to impose an exception to the measure to stop it at the preclearance stage.
Weeks says an alternative to communicating with the U.S. Jstice Department would be to put the matter up for debate in the court system. “the other avenue we have which would be much more costly is the possibility of filing a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the statute as it is finally passed. “
Weeks adds that the bill will be met with a number of challenges before the measure is voted on by the state senate
“I suspect that there may be some amendments in the Senate and we are really looking forward to our caucus members stalling the matter in the Senate and really putting a hold on it there,” he says.
Weeks says lawmakers against the bill tried to delay any implementation of the measure for two years to give sufficient time for the South Carolina Election Commission to actually educate the public on the ramifications of the new law if passed in the Senate. Weeks says that proposal was soundly defeated.
Weeks says when the measure was in committee debate he questioned the purpose of such a measure, saying “What is the problem with the system now? We had a humongous turnout during the last election, no major issues with the election in the state of South Carolina. We understand that those crowds standing in line for Obama scared the Republicans up in this state.”
Several members of the Black Caucus say the largely republican vote for the measure was a backlash against the election of president Barack Obama. Weeks says the caucus was angered because the House did not even see fit to entertain a number of amendments opponents of the measure wanted to add to the bill including exempting elderly persons from having to present a photo ID at the polls. “Most of the persons who don’t have identification are probably going to fall in that category and I don’t see anything wrong with a person with a college ID that is a photo ID from presenting that as proof that he is who he is.”
The measure requires voters to show a valid driver’s license, a passport, military ID, or state ID before being allowed to vote.