[JURIST] South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson [official website] filed suit [complaint, PDF] Tuesday against the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] over its ruling that barred South Carolina from enforcing its voter identification law [R54 materials]. The DOJ rejected the law [JURIST report] in December on the grounds that it was discriminatory. It has authority to do so under the Voting Rights Act [Cornell LII backgrounder], which allows it to screen new voter laws in states with a history of discriminatory voter practices. In the filing, the attorney general alleges that the photo identification requirement will not disenfranchise voters.
South Carolina’s photo identification law only places upon the voter an affirmative responsibility to obtain an approved photo identification card and bring it to the polls. … Because these photo identification requirements are not a bar to voting but a temporary inconvenience no greater than the inconvenience inherent in voting itself, they do not deny or abridge the right to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority.
The complaint cited a 2008 Supreme Court decision which upheld a similar Indiana law [JURIST report]. The American Civil Liberties Union [advocacy website] has praised [press release] the DOJ for its actions in blocking the law. The advocacy group alleges that the new law would have prevented thousands of eligible voters from exercising their right.
There are now 30 US states that require voters to present some form of ID at the polls, including 14 states that require photo ID, but the issue remains controversial. In Wisconsin, several civil rights groups filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] in December challenging the new voter identification law [2011 Wisconsin Act 23]. In June 2011, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon [official website] vetoed [JURIST report] a law requiring persons to present photo identification at voting booth. In March 2011, the Georgia Supreme Court [official website] upheld [JURIST report] a law requiring voters to present one of six government-issued photo identifications in order to vote. In contrast, a three-judge panel for the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] struck down [JURIST report] a portion of Arizona law requiring proof of citizenship for voter registration in October 2010. In October 2006, the Supreme Court ruled that Arizona could enforce its voter ID law [JURIST report], which requires voters to show government-issued voter ID cards [JURIST news archive] at the polls.