Black Legal Scholars Comment on South Carolina Voter ID Ruling
Voter Protection Upheld, But Obama Administration Stalling Keeps Fraud Prospects Alive for Upcoming Election
Judges Find Photo ID Law Does Not Discriminate Against Minorities
Washington, D.C. - A federal ruling against the Obama Administration's assault on vote fraud protections in South Carolina is being cheered by legal experts with the National Center for Public Policy Research's Voter ID Task Force and the Project 21 black leadership network. The fact that this safeguard cannot be enforced during the upcoming election, however, is considered an unfortunate judicial concession that only guarantees fraud will continue in the short term.
"Yet another legal victory for the simple, commonsense protection of asking someone to prove their identity before they cast a ballot makes the case for photo ID requirements that much stronger," said Project 21 spokeswoman Cherylyn Harley LeBon, a former senior counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. "What is perplexing and wrong is that the Obama Administration was able to use the Voting Rights Act as a tool to effectively run out the clock on enforcing this protection right now. Fraud can and will still happen in South Carolina in November thanks to the President and his cronies."
In a unanimous ruling handed down on October 10, a three-judge federal panel in Washington, D.C. gave its "pre-clearance" approval to South Carolina's Act R54 — a state-level polling place protection law requiring valid photo ID be presented before voting. Citing the state's previous decades-old voter ID law, the judges noted that Act R54 offers an expanded list of acceptable ID and creates a new voter ID card while also allowing a prospective voter to cast a ballot after signing an affidavit explaining their lack of proper ID. In the opinion, the judges noted that Act R54 "minimizes the burden of obtaining a qualifying photo ID as compared to pre-existing law" and that "the new South Carolina law does not have a discriminatory retrogressive effect… [and] was not enacted for a discriminatory purpose."
Attorney General Eric Holder sought to squash South Carolina's voter ID law in much the same way the U.S. Department of Justice used "pre-clearance" authority under the Voting Rights Act to assault state-level vote integrity legislation elsewhere. In response to a claim that an impetus for laws such as Act R54 is to harm President Barack Obama's by suppressing the votes of likely supporters, the judges' ruling chastises this narrow-minded race-baiting. The judges wrote: "the Department of Justice and the intervenors point to Act R54's proximity to the election of the country's first African-American President, a Republican legislature's refusal to accede to some of the Democratic legislators' amendments, and the bill's sometimes rancorous legislative history. But those pieces of circumstantial evidence, even in the aggregate, do not overcome the central facts that we have described, which convincingly show that Act R54 was not enacted for a discriminatory purpose."
Due to the brief amount of time between the ruling on October 10 and the upcoming elections on November 6, the judges determined that this "short time left" did not allow enough time to "properly implement" the law in 2012. Because of this, Act R54 law will go into effect after the upcoming elections.
"Yet again, the Department of Justice was wrong on the policy and wrong on the law," said Project 21 spokesman Horace Cooper. "This issue has already been litigated in the highest court. Voter ID is just as lawful today as it was when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it in 2008. It's just shameful how the Department of Justice has abused its role to delay its implementation in South Carolina."
Horace Cooper is an adjunct fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research, a member of the African-American leadership group Project 21 and a legal commentator. He taught constitutional law at George Mason University in Virginia and was a senior counsel to Rep. Dick Armey (R-TX) when Armey served as U.S. House Majority Leader.
Cooper is the author of the National Policy Analysis paper "Voter ID and South Carolina: The Supreme Court Speaks Yet DOJ Won't Listen" that discusses Act R54 and the Obama Administration's moves to block its implementation despite legal precedent in the law's favor.
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