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December 24, 2011 8:00 AM Justice Dept. targets SC voter-ID law

By Steve Benen

It’d be a shame if the Justice Department’s actions in South Carolina get lost in the holiday-weekend shuffle, because this is an important move.

The Obama administration entered the fierce national debate over voting rights, rejecting South Carolina’s new law requiring photo identification at the polls and saying it discriminated against minority voters. […]

In its first decision on the laws, Justice’s Civil Rights Division said South Carolina’s statute is discriminatory because its registered minority voters are nearly 20 percent more likely than whites to lack a state-issued photo ID. Under the 1965 Voting Rights Act, South Carolina is one of a number of states that are required to receive federal “pre-clearance” on voting changes to ensure that they don’t hurt minorities’ political power.

“The absolute number of minority citizens whose exercise of the franchise could be adversely affected by the proposed requirements runs into the tens of thousands,” Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez said in a letter to South Carolina officials.

South Carolina Republicans, eager to tilt the electoral playing field in their favor, reacted about the way one might expect them to — they’re not pleased — and will turn to the federal courts to undo the DOJ’s intervention.

As the state’s Republican policymakers see it, the imaginary scourge of voter fraud justifies a war on voting, but as Justice’s Civil Rights Division explained, South Carolina “did not include any evidence or instance” of fraud that necessitated these new voter-suppression tactics.

I can only hope this is the first of many such moves. As Hunted noted yesterday, Republican officials have approved similar voter-suppression measures in 11 other states. Each are as odious as they are unnecessary, designed to keep traditional Democratic constituencies from participating in elections.

This is also, by the way, another one of those “parties matter” moments, of which there have been many lately. Remember, in 2005, career staffers in the Justice Department’s Voting Section found that Georgia’s voter-ID law was discriminatory and should be rejected — only to see Bush/Cheney officials override their own experts’ judgment and approve the proposal.

If a McCain or Romney administration were in power right now, we’d very likely see something similar.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

Comments

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  • Danp on December 24, 2011 8:04 AM:

    And if Ron Paul were president, it wouldn't be so subtle.

  • hells littlest angel on December 24, 2011 8:07 AM:

    Yes, indeed, parties matter. Under McCain (and Palin!), we'd still be fighting in Iraq with a military that discriminates against gay and lesbian srvice members.

  • c u n d gulag on December 24, 2011 8:10 AM:

    "Under the 1965 Voting Rights Act, South Carolina is one of a number of states that are required to receive federal “pre-clearance” on voting changes to ensure that they don’t hurt minorities’ political power."

    One would think that after almost 50 years of being treated like an untrustworthy teenager, with Mommy and Daddy having to check the homework, SC might at least have some shame.

    HA!
    Sometimes, I even crack myself up!!!

    The only things wrong with my above sentence, are the words "think" and "shame."

    Neither of which is in the Conservative lexicon.

    I shudder to think what CRAPTCHA will do when it grows out of this Rorschack period.

    We'll probably all need to purchase official WaMo night-goggles to comment.

  • jdog on December 24, 2011 8:17 AM:

    If I understand the law, the Department of Justice has preclearance authority in states that traditionally have discriminated against African Americans: those in the "Old South." They do not have preclearance in other states. This means that Northern states controlled by right-wingers do not fall under this authority. Notably, this includes Wisconsin and Indiana.

    One advantage of the DOJ making this move is that it will be in the news. Most people have no idea the voter suppression is going on. A legal fight makes news that the media outlets cannot avoid. This will be bring greater advantage to those opposed to voter suppression. Voter suppression is fundamentally anti-democratic. Most Americans will find this meme undeniable. This will be important in the Northern states, such as Indiana and Wisconsin. It contributes to the poor reputation of the Republicans, right on the heels of the payroll-tax cut conflict. These accumulate: it is just one more factor that may drive turnout of those who remain registered. It can also (I hope) lead to great efforts at voter registration months before the deadlines. After all, people without ID will need time to gather the documents needed to get documents needed to register.

  • Al on December 24, 2011 8:38 AM:

    If we want a strong democracy, we need to keep ineligible voters from voting. If we don't, the terrorists win.

  • James on December 24, 2011 8:41 AM:

    It's early I know, but I believe it is HuntER not HuntED. Yet.

  • sick -n-effin-tired on December 24, 2011 9:39 AM:

    Jdog; "Most people have no idea the voter suppression is going on" And therein is the problem as you can add a myriad of other items to the list . Our taxes are reduced? who knew. Obamacare is saving me money and preventing me form going into bankruptcy if I get sick . Who knew?
    Lame ass Faux nooze nation . A media that doesn't care for the truth and population too lazy to ever pick up a newspaper , read a blog or even attempt to discern issues that affect their lives.
    America - too stupid for democracy.


  • James M on December 24, 2011 10:40 AM:

    2 comments:

    1. @Al

    "If we want a strong democracy, we need to keep ineligible voters from voting. If we don't, the terrorists win."

    Good to see Al back after a long absence! Any logic to that statement at all?

    2. @sick -n-effin-tired

    "Lame ass Faux nooze nation . A media that doesn't care for the truth and population too lazy to ever pick up a newspaper , read a blog or even attempt to discern issues that affect their lives.
    America - too stupid for democracy."

    I think, ironically, we are seeing a kind of triumph of democracy. The low information/uniformed voters have always been with us, I suspect they just weren't actively involved in politics up till now. The deferred to their 'betters'. However, Fox News and the Tea Party has brought these people into the political arena and given them a home and a voice.

    Uninformed voters are the potential structural weakness of all democratic societies, but most societies have formal/informal measures in place to keep these people in check (which is course, fundamentally undemocratic). However, American democracy can clearly not survive as we know it unless these low information voters either drop out of the political process again, or become better informed.

    If anyone thinks I am exaggerating, just consider the current House of Representatives.

    (p.s., I now also agree that Captcha is becoming ridiculous. This is my 3rd (4th) try because I can not read the ink blot letters. Steve, if you don't want readers comments, just let us know! However, Captcha has now turned a previously effortless activity into an ordeal!)

  • Anonymous on December 24, 2011 11:06 AM:

    Al: If we want a strong democracy, we need to keep ignorant Fox news viewers from voting. If we don't, the terrorists win.

    Fixed.

  • c u n d gulag on December 24, 2011 11:47 AM:

    James M,
    The low information voters think that they ARE better informed - now that they finally have a TV news station that tell them what the want to hear. The same shit they hear on talk radio, and read in the Op-eds of the papers they subscribe to.

    CRAPTCHA - look over there - A SHINY OBJECT!

    Hah! Got through...

  • liam foote on December 24, 2011 3:01 PM:

    Good to see the DOJ step in where authorized to do so by law. It would be encouraging to see more private sector legal action taken as well on this crucial issue. Does anyone have a link to stats related to actual instances of voter fraud for which someone was convicted?

    I'm a single parent with 2 young sons (7 & 4) in the event that there might be someone out there who meets the CAPTCHA description ... Aulder 1981. Thanks.

  • fred on December 25, 2011 12:20 PM:


    As usual Al has the only intelligent comment. So an Obammy appointee doesn't like the law- yet we have to show ID to fly an airplane, buy certain products, drive a car, etc. The democraps, as usual, support any effort to subvert the electoral process to their underserved advantage.

  • Werewolf on December 25, 2011 2:26 PM:

    @fred:
    So, what *is* the best way to cook 13 dwarves and one hobbit?

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