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S.C. Attorney General to Appeal Voter ID Ruling

Advocates of the law hope to see it in place before the 2012 election.

The battle over the South Carolina voter ID law is not over and state leaders say they will take the fight back to the U.S. Justice Department.

State lawmakers said they plan to fight U.S. Justice Department for rejecting the controversial voter ID law on the basis of racial discrimination.

Officials with the S.C. Attorney General's office said they are moving forward with plans to file an appeal but would not confirm plans for a lawsuit.

"We plan to exhaust every legal action at our disposal," Communications Director for the Attorney General’s office Mark Plowden said.

“We do expect to file a challenge. The legal documents to appeal will be filed at the end of the month.”

Although the law's co-sponsor Larry Grooms acknowledged the law is discriminatory, he rejected the assumption that it was targeting minority voters.

"In a way it is discriminatory against those who would like to vote under false pretenses," said Grooms, R-Berkeley. "It's discriminatory against those who cheat."

Grooms said the reason the Justice Department rejected the voter ID law was because it contained more rigid requirements than similar laws passed in states like Georgia, Indiana, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin.

The Palmetto State is faced with the battle for the voter ID law at the same time as lawmakers fight for the survival of the controversial immigration reform law.

The letter from the Justice Department explained that the voter ID law would disproportionately impact minority voters. Of the 2,701,843 registered voters in the state 239,333 did not possess a DMV-issued photo ID as of Oct. 1, 2011. 

Ten percent of non-white registered voters lacked the proper identification required by the law whereas only 8.4 percent of white registered voters lacked proper identification, according to the letter.

Other states that have passed similar voter ID laws provide more options for the types of identification voters can use at the polls. Some states, like Georgia, took it a step further and provided the Justice Department with plans to increase voter participation.

"Georgia spent a lot of time explaining how they were increasing voter participation, there was a big education component in Georgia," Grooms said. "South Carolina did not do that."

Senator Larry Martin, R-Pickens, said the South Carolina law was not passed because of the state's history of discriminatory laws. 

"It's okay everywhere else but because South Carolina was at one time the heart of the South and we had Jim Crow Laws, we're going to punish modern day South Carolina," Martin said.

Last fall the state offered free rides to the Department of Motor Vehicles to anyone who needed one in order to get their photo ID, however very few people took advantage of the program. Martin said access to media and information was not the the cause of the low turnout.

"I've seen very dilapidated houses around with a better television than I have," Martin said. "Folks that are that tuned out and have never heard about the photo ID law, they're not apt to tune in to voting period."

Martin said it remains important for the state to enact the voter ID law before the 2012 elections in November to prevent voter fraud among the undocumented immigrant population in the state.

"They don't get to vote and attempt to influence public policy," Martin said. "That's just a ticking time bomb waiting to go off. It hasn't happened yet, but I think it's coming."

Advocates of the law say it is needed because of rampant voter fraud here in the state. Grooms cited two examples of voter fraud in the Lowcountry that have never been documented.

"Voter fraud is something very hard to prove," Grooms said. "Once someone pushes that button in the voting machine it's done."

South Carolina Democrats say the reason the type of voter fraud that the voter ID law seeks to combat - voter impersonation - is hard to prove is that it doesn't happen.

"It's a bill that was put up to address a problem that didn't exist," Charleston County Democratic Party Chairman George Tempel said. "Look at the times it's been prosecuted, there are none."

Tempel said Democrats opposed the law for several reasons. The biggest reason for the opposition he said is the thousands of largely poor and rural state residents who do not have a state issued picture ID that would be disenfranchised by the law. He said the law and others like it around the country are part of a national effort to make it harder for Democratic leaning voters to cast ballots.

Tempel said writing and passing the bill also took up valuable time in the General Assembly that should have been used to improve the state's education system and economy.

Grooms said lawmakers were ready to file a lawsuit against the Justice Department to get the law passed as it stands. If a lawsuit against the Justice Department is unsuccessful, state lawmakers say they will consider amending the bill to include a voter education component and more lenient identification requirements to ensure its passage.

"Right now we'll take our chances in federal court," Grooms said.

Plowden said he was not aware of any immediate plans to file a lawsuit, but he had not been in communication with Grooms. The state Attorney General’s office plans to take it one step at a time.

“Our goal is to ensure that a constitutional statute is put into effect per the wishes of the people of this state,” Plowden said.

stanley seigler January 05, 2012 at 11:08 PM
@sdr: How could voter fraud be proved? one way...dead people cant vote...so cross check registered voters (must be registerted to vote) vs recorded deaths in a precinct...computers make this a simple search...would guess this has been (should have been) done and no fraud found...ie; The South Carolina State Election Commission told the New York Times that it knows of no confirmed cases of voter identification fraud..."
stanley seigler January 05, 2012 at 11:21 PM
@Ms. R. G. Davis, PhD Candidate: The interest stated by the Republican Party, (Attorney General Grooms), and Governor Nicky Haley that a 2nd picture voter identification is needed to vote is unfounded, very extreme, and unnecessary... COMMENT tho not impressed by PhDs who introduce themselves as dr X...and those who publish they are PhD candidates...do agree with opine: "picture voter identification is needed to vote is unfounded, very extreme, and unnecessary..." ... aka; stupidity...we have to find a cure...
Jonathan Allen January 05, 2012 at 11:51 PM
@Ms. R. G. Davis, just a quick clarification, Larry Grooms is a state senator, and a chief sponsor of the S.C. Voter ID law. He is quoted as a source in the story because he has been instrumental in passing the law and is a major supporter of it. Alan Wilson is South Carolina's Attorney General, though he was not available to speak with Patch while we were compiling this story, we did speak with a spokesman from Wilson's office (Mark Plowden - who is quoted in the fourth paragraph of the story saying the Attorney General's office will pursue all legal avenues to fight the DOJ decision). It will be up to Wilson's office to decide whether to pursue an appeal of the Department of Justice decision. I hope this clears up any confusion about the role Sen. Grooms is playing in this issue.
Eleanor January 07, 2012 at 02:17 AM
The SC State Elections Commission works hard to be sure the dead don't vote. They also check social security numbers against neighboring states in order to remove the names of people who have moved. One would assume that they have a computer program to check the voter rolls against the registry of people who have died. I sincerely doubt that dead people vote in SC. But, over 2000 votes were incorrectly recorded in the 2010 general election in SC. Now, that is something worth correcting and the legislature isn't doing anything about it because they "don't have the money." If they spent the money they are spending on this unnecessary and unfortunate photo ID, they could begin to replace our voting machines with a technology that allows votes to be recounted when needed.
Geneva Lawrence January 07, 2012 at 12:22 PM
No, South Carolinians deserve who they vote for.

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