During a U.S. House committee hearing Tuesday into the constitutionality of voter identification laws enacted in states across the country (including South Carolina), a fired-up 4th District Congressman Trey Gowdy expressed his anger toward claims made by the Department of Justice that those laws were racially discriminatory.
“South Carolina’s voter ID law was similar if not less restrictive than those DOJ had pre-cleared in New Hampshire, Virginia, and Georgia,” Gowdy insisted during the April 16 hearing. “Moreover, South Carolina’s plan was similar if not less restrictive to plans approved outside of DOJ pre-clearance in states like Tennessee, Kansas, and Indiana.”
In 2011, the Justice Department blocked South Carolina’s new law that requires voters to show an accepted form of photo identification at the polls. The agency said the law would disproportionately affect minority voters. South Carolina eventually won the case in federal court last year. However, it cost the state $3.5 million in attorney fees to do so.
Gowdy said there are provisions in South Carolina’s voter ID law that allow those without one of the listed forms of ID to still exercise their right to vote.
“In 2011, one-third of South Carolina’s congressional delegation was African American and, as we now know, one of two African American United States senators is from South Carolina. In addition, South Carolina’s governor is of Indian descent,” Gowdy said, adding that the difference between whites and African-Americans with acceptable photo IDs was minimal.
The hearing was organized by House Republicans in response to an Inspector General’s report into the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division. That division’s leader, Thomas Perez, is President Obama’s choice to lead the Department of Labor. The report criticized some decisions made in the Civil Rights Division as being done for political reasons, but did not mention South Carolina’s voter ID case.
One of the committee’s Democrats criticized the hearing, accusing Republicans of trying to make political controversy where none exists. “I would only offer a caveat and suggest that the hearing should be renamed to ‘We lost the presidency and Mr. Tom Perez is at fault’ in quotes, because I see no reason for this hearing,” Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) said.