The Justice Department has rejected South Carolina’s new voter ID law.
Under the Voting Rights Act, the agency has to approve any new laws in South Carolina that affect elections. On Friday, the agency refused to clear the law passed earlier this year requiring any person voting in an election to have a state-issued photo identification card.
The Justice Department said the law is discriminatory against minority voters, pointing to data from the South Carolina Elections Commission. The commission estimated 8.4 percent of registered white voters lacked a photo identification, versus 10 percent of registered non-whites.
“Until South Carolina succeeds in substantially addressing the racial disparities described above… the state cannot meet its burden of proving that the voting identification requirements… will not have a retrogressive effect,” Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez wrote in the Justice Department’s letter to the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office.
South Carolina was one of 12 states to pass a law this year requiring photo IDs to vote. However, only one other Southern state– Texas– requires the Justice Department’s approval. The other states are not covered by the Voting Rights Act.
Supporters of the law say it is needed to prevent voter fraud. “We are working everyday to move South Carolina forward, and… the President and his bullish administration are fighting us every step of the way,” Governor Nikki Haley said in a statement, “It is outrageous, and we plan to look at every possible option to get this clearly political decision overturned so we can protect the integrity of our electoral process and our 10th amendment rights.”
South Carolina could appeal the decision to a federal court or try to get DOJ approval again with a modified version of the law next year.