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Federal court hears oral arguments on South Carolina voter ID law

Oral arguments began Monday in South Carolina v. US [case materials], as South Carolina defended its new voter identification law [text] from a Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] ruling that blocked its implementation. The law, which would require photo ID in order to vote, was rejected as being in violation of the Voting Rights Act [Cornell LII backgrounder]. The state argued before a three-judge panel in the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] that such procedures are necessary to prevent fraud, with state senator George Campsen testifying to varying examples of election fraud [AP report] he had discovered when crafting the original bill. However, in cross examination, the DOJ rebutted that Campsen's examples would not be less likely with mandatory photo ID laws. Testimony is expected to continue for the rest of the week, with closing arguments scheduled for September 24. Even though a decision may happen slightly before the election, South Carolina officials have promised to implement the law before the November 6 presidential election [Bloomberg report] if the court rules in its favor.

South Carolina sued the DOJ in February in an attempt to revive the law after it was blocked [JURIST reports] from taking effect. Six advocacy originally groups called on the DOJ to stop the law [JURIST report]. The coalition argued in a letter to the DOJ that the new law would suppress the minority vote. According to the groups, there are more than 178,000 registered voters in South Carolina who lack a valid photo ID, and African-Americans are disproportionately affected. The groups also argued that African Americans face social and economic barriers to obtaining valid photo ID and that the law is in violation of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

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