Another Voting Rights Victory in South Carolina As Voter ID Law Won't Take Effect Until 2013.
South Carolina has become the second state in two weeks where a court has ordered its new Republican-sponsored voter ID law will not take effect until after the 2012 presidential election.
The ruling Wednesday by a three-judge federal appeals court in Washington is a short-term victory for voting rights advocates, just as a decision by a state court in Pennsylvania last week was a parallel civil rights victory for that state's 2012 voters.
The Campaign Legal Center's legal director, former Justice Department Voting Section attorney, J. Gerald Hebert, issued the following statement:
"We are pleased the court did not approve this law for the 2012 Election as tens of thousands of registered voters would have been disenfranchised. The state was ill-prepared to implement its photo voter ID law for the 2012 election and it was forced to continually change the law during the course of the trial in order to safeguard voting rights. Ultimately the law that the court has approved for 2013 and beyond is a huge departure from the bill enacted by the South Carolina legislature."
"This decision is a victory for the voters of South Carolina over their own elected officials. An unfair and undemocratic law has been drastically improved and the Campaign Legal Center will monitor the State’s implementation of the law in 2013 and beyond to ensure voting rights are protected. The 2012 Election was the most pressing concern and that has been addressed."
The ruling is also seen as a victory for the federal Voting Rights Act, which is under attack in court in a lawsuit headed by Texas' Republican Attorney General. That is because the 1965 Voting Rights Act gave the federal government negotiating power to insist that South Carolina improve the draconian law that was passed by the state's GOP-controlled Legislature. The result was a changed and improved law that will take effect next year, when state and local election officials will have more time to implement it and monitor its impact.
"We conclude that the new South Carolina law does not have a discriminatory retrogressive effect, as compared to the benchmark of South Carolina’s pre-existing law," the court said. "However, given the short time left before the 2012 elections, and given the numerous steps necessary to properly implement the law – particularly the new “reasonable impediment” provision – and ensure that the law would not have discriminatory retrogressive effects on African-American voters in 2012,we do not grant pre-clearance for the 2012 elections."