South Carolina to sue Obama administration over voter ID law

CHARLESTON, South Carolina Tue Jan 10, 2012 7:32pm EST

Related Topics

CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters) - South Carolina will sue the administration of President Barack Obama over its rejection of the state's new requirement that voters provide a photo ID, Attorney General Alan Wilson said on Tuesday.

"We intend to file a suit against the Department of Justice in D.C. District Court within the next week or two," Attorney General Alan Wilson told a news conference in the state capital of Columbia with Republican Governor Nikki Haley and legislative leaders.

The Obama administration blocked South Carolina's new law that requires voters to have photo identification because of concerns it would hurt minorities' ability to cast a ballot. The administration action means voters will not have an ID to vote in the January 21 South Carolina Republican presidential primary.

The law signed by Haley in May requires voters to show either a driver's license, passport or military identification along with a voter registration card to vote.

Under the law, anyone who wants to vote but does not have a photo identification must obtain a new voter registration card that includes a photo. A birth certificate can be used to prove identity.

The Justice Department said the requirement could harm the right to vote of tens of thousands of people, noting that just over a third of the state's minorities who are registered voters did not have a driver's license.

South Carolina is one of several states that must have clearance from the federal government before changing voting law because of its past record of using things such as literacy tests to suppress the black vote.

"I have heard and looked and seen no evidence of voter suppression," Wilson said of other states that already enforce ID laws.

Voter ID laws in a number of states with Republican governors and legislative majorities have drawn objections from Democrats, who say they suppress the vote of people more likely to vote Democratic, such as blacks, the elderly and the young.

Republican Haley said the Justice Department's decision was part of a "war on South Carolina" by the federal government that included a lawsuit by the National Labor Relations Board against Boeing Co. over its new South Carolina assembly plant, and a federal judge blocking the state's new immigration restrictions.

"If you have to show a picture ID to buy Sudafed, if you have to show a picture ID to get on a plane, you should have to show a picture ID to do that one thing that is so important to us and that is the right to vote," Haley said. "This is common sense legislation."

The state offered free rides to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get the free identification required by the law and fewer than 30 people asked for a ride, Haley said.

Critics of the law said that many voters without photo ID do not have the means to obtain documents, such as a birth certificate, required to get the ID and likely did not know about the state's offer.

(Editing by Greg McCune)

FILED UNDER: