Last Updated:November 27 @ 11:19 am

South Carolina voter ID gets judges' scrutiny

By Suzanne Gamboa

WASHINGTON (AP) - South Carolina is in federal court arguing that its new law requiring people prove their identity at the polls won't make voting so tough that it reduces turnout of African-Americans, Hispanics and other minorities.

A federal panel is to determine whether South Carolina's voter identification law violates the Voting Rights Act by putting heavy burdens on minorities who don't have the identification. Last December, the Justice Department refused to allow South Carolina to require the photo IDs, saying doing so would reverse the voting gains of the states' minorities.

Closing arguments in the case — which went to trial in August and included several state officials as witnesses — were scheduled for Monday. South Carolina has said it would implement the law immediately if the three-judge panel upholds it, although a decision either way is likely to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Tougher state voter registration and identification laws could factor into this year's election as voters divide along racial lines behind President Barack Obama or GOP nominee Mitt Romney in the presidential contest. About 90 percent of African-Americans and some 64 percent of Hispanicregistered voters support Obama, according to the most recent Gallup three-week tracking poll. (Aug 20-Sept. 9). Democrats worry the ID laws may rob Obama and Democratic candidates of votes.

The law allows voters to show a driver's license or other photo ID issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles, passport, military ID with photo or a voter registration card that includes a photo.

The law's route to passage — after other versions failed in the 2009 and 2010 legislative sessions — was marked by bitter partisan and intra-party fights. Attempts at compromise by including additional acceptable identification and early voting days imploded. The 2009 House bill triggered a walkout by all but one African-American in the South Carolina House and the 2010 bill died in a filibuster by Senate Democrats.

Republican Gov. Nikki Haley signed the law in May 2011.

In his opening statement at trial, attorney for South Carolina Christopher Bartolomucci said the law was not a direct response to the 2008 record minority turnout that helped put Obama win the White House.

State witnesses said they wanted to instill public confidence in the election system and curb fraud, although they were unable to turn up instances of impersonation fraud that photo ID laws are designed to thwart. But South Carolina lawmakers testified the law would also act as a deterrent to other types of fraud.

South Carolina's population is 64 percent white, 28 percent African-American and 5 percent Hispanic. State election data produced in the trial showed some 178,000 registered voters did not have DMV-issued identification. Of those, 30 percent were white and 36 percent were minority voters. The data did not show if they had the other accepted IDs.

The judges in the case honed in on part of the law allowing voters without the required identification to cast a provisional ballot. But they must sign a statement that says they had a "reasonable impediment" preventing them from obtaining one of the required IDs. The affidavit would have to be notarized.

Marci Andino, South Carolina's State Election Commission executive director, testified poll workers would be encouraged to err on the side of voters in deciding whether the potential voter truly had a "reasonable impediment." Notaries at the 2,100 polling locations would not charge fees, she said. If a notary was not available, affidavits would be accepted anyway, Andino said.

The U.S. Supreme Court has previously upheld Georgia and Indiana voter photo identification laws, which South Carolina officials said served as models and guidance for their law. But those state laws allow voters to show more forms of identification.

Attorneys for the Justice Department and opponents have argued the provision's definition of what qualifies as a reasonable impediment is vague and could be applied differently from county to county. Opponents raised enough questions that South Carolina Attorney General Glen Wilson was compelled to clarify before the trial ended how the law would work.

The judges on the panel hearing the South Carolina case are Colleen Kollar-Kotelly and John D. Bates of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and Brett M. Kavanaugh of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Kollar-Kotelly was appointed by former President Bill Clinton. Bates and Kavanaugh were appointed by former President George W. Bush.

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  1. lwessonComment by lwesson
    September 24, 2012 @ 11:22 am

    AP conveniently left out any mention that Southern States that sided with the Confederate States failed attempt at independence, are still, after 150 years, being held by the North, to different standards! Thank you Federal Northern Overlords!

    In Texas, a Federal Court struck down our voter ID law, AND our redistricting maps. This has for people running for Congress, serious implications. Sean Seibert, who is running for Congress against incumbent Congresswoman extraordinaire, Sheila Jackson Lee, the one that was curious if our MARS Rover took a photo of the flag that Astronaut, Neil Armstrong left there, likely made the effort to run, after the redistricting.

    Sean Seibert, an officer, US Army Vet, who was in Afghanistan, a sharp decent guy, is now facing a different stacked game, running against Shelia Jackson Lee, and her 98% lockstep loyal minions. It will not be a race, but so much a slaughter, like the Brits endured in the Khyber Pass, in Afghanistan, with a single survivor making it out.

    What is constitutional for Ohio…, is unconstitutional for Texas in voter ID and other laws. At least I can now get in line with the dead to vote, and vote often, thanks to double Federal standards.

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    • BobinmsComment by Bobinms
      September 24, 2012 @ 1:07 pm

      I have come to realize that AP slants/spins it’s stories to favor Obama and the Democrats as much as the TV media. Notice the next time you read an AP article it will be filled with slight nuances.

      An example, every time they mentioned that 47 percent do not pay income tax, they quickly pointed out that this 47 percent DOES PAY other taxes. They did this a least twice in the article. What does this spin imply/overlook?

      1. That while they don’t pay income tax it’s OK because they pay other taxes.
      2. They never mentioned that the 53 percent that DO pay income taxes ALSO pay these other taxes.
      3. The topic was income tax. Why bring up the other taxes that are not pertinent? Answer-to justify the 47% that do not.

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    • pistol packing mamaComment by txgoatlady
      September 24, 2012 @ 1:32 pm

      Sheila Jackson Lee is a HUGE embarrassment to our state. In addition to being a total moron she is one of the more corrupt legislators. There really should be some qualifications to run for office. Maybe we could give them a basic civics test. She would never pass.

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    • lwessonComment by lwesson
      September 24, 2012 @ 1:54 pm

      She is right up there txgoatlady, with the Representative that asked an Admiral if an island would tip over with all of the military equipment on it!

      The double standards for ethics, well I have to pinch myself to see if I am not dreaming.

      Our local news media, gives Shelia and others, one free pass after another. Shelia was caught in a voting area, just having a grand time of it. Had her opponent, John Faulk, as decent as they come, had done the same, it would have brought not only National Media attention, but criminal charges.

      Shelia, always seems incapable of arriving on time, and usually after events are well over. According to our local “hate” radio, she is abusive to her aides, as she demands special treatment from the city, like security. The times that I have met her, I just have to shake my head.

      My favorite personal quote that I heard her say, “We have to raise the debt limit, as we have important works to do.” Yea, I bet.

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    • beckery49Comment by beckery49
      September 24, 2012 @ 1:55 pm

      With ‘motor-voter’ and a couple of friends, you can vote as many times as you want. With absentee ballots, no ID,liberal judges supporting all the folks in the cemeteries, a president that bypasses Congress on a daily basis and a media in the tank for him, does it really matter after this upcoming, rigged election is over? The more I watch what is happening, the happier I am that I am old and will not have to live in this mess the koolaid drinkers are making.

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  2. mach37Comment by mach37
    September 24, 2012 @ 1:56 pm

    As a taxpayer I would gladly pay for the DMV to provide photo ID for voter registration of indigent and/or handicapped individuals. I understand some states already do this. Including that feature in voter ID legislation should remove any possible objection by ALL interested parties.

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