South Carolina AG to fight feds over voter ID law

The State (Columbia, S.C.)January 11, 2012 

Three of South Carolina’s top political leaders announced Tuesday their plans to file a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice’s decision to block the state’s controversial voter ID law.

Attorney General Alan Wilson said he will file a lawsuit within the next two weeks against the Justice Department in Washington D.C. district court.

It’s necessary, Wilson said, to protect the integrity of South Carolina elections.

“Our intent of the office is to look at this legislation through the litigation process and to ensure that no voter is suppressed in the right to vote and that the integrity of the electoral process is protected,” he said “That is of paramount importance that we protect the electoral process and ensure that voter irregularities and potential voter fraud is curtailed, curbed or prevented.”

Gov. Nikki Haley and House Speaker Bobby Harrell joined Wilson.

The law would require voters to show a photo identification card issued by the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles or a U.S. military ID or a U.S. passport.

But last month, the Justice Department said the law would prevent black people from voting. It was first voter ID law to be refused by the department in 20 years.

Democrats responded to Tuesday’s announcement by saying any lawsuit would be an unnecessary legal battle that would cost the state’s taxpayers.

S.C. Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, said the Republican establishment was trying to keep minorities and poor people from voting.

“All they have done is create a problem that was not there,” Rutherford said. “They’re wasting the state’s money to defend it.”

When asked how much the lawsuit would cost the state, Wilson said he was not ready to put a dollar amount on it. The state has hired Paul Clement, a former U.S. Solicitor General in Washington D.C., and Chris Coates, a former Department of Justice official in Charleston, to represent the state, said Mark Plowden, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office.

While Haley, Harrell and Wilson said the state’s history was filled with voter fraud and the ID law was necessary to prevent it, none offered recent, specific examples of voters who attempted to vote twice or under someone else’s name.

Their arguments in support of the lawsuit included an inconsistent track record from the Justice Department in approving voter ID laws. They said a similar law in Georgia was approved and that the U.S. Supreme Court had upheld Indiana’s voter ID law. Also, they argued that the justice department used flawed numbers provided by the S.C. State Election Commission to review the law.

To read more, visit www.thestate.com.

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