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ACLU Steps in to Block South Carolina's Discriminatory Voter ID Law

ACLU Files Motion in Federal District Court to Stop Law That Would Disenfranchise Voters

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By: ACLU

WASHINGTON, Feb. 24, 2012 ­– The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of South Carolina today asked a federal court to block South Carolina's discriminatory voter identification law that would keep minorities and others from exercising their right to vote.

"South Carolina's voter ID law is a prime example why the Voting Rights Act is necessary and relevant today," said Nancy Abudu, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Voting Rights Project. "If it were not for the protections that the Voting Rights Act provides, South Carolina and many other states would enact discriminatory voting laws that make it harder for minorities to vote."

The ACLU filed a motion in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in order to intervene in South Carolina v. Holder, in which South Carolina is seeking to have its voter ID law approved. In order to intervene in the case, the court must first grant the ACLU's motion. The ACLU has already had similar motions granted in other voting rights cases, including in Arizona, Georgia and North Carolina.

The motion was filed on behalf of three registered voters, including two African-Americans, who do not have an acceptable form of ID under the new law.

"Despite the lack of proof that voter impersonation is a problem in South Carolina, and despite evidence that African-Americans are less likely than whites to possess the forms of ID that the law requires, state officials have chosen to defend this unnecessary and unfair law," said Victoria Middleton, executive director of the ACLU of South Carolina. "Our elected officials should make it easier for South Carolinians to exercise their right to vote, not put more barriers in their way."

The motion was also filed on behalf of the Family Unit, a Sumter-based non-profit organization that helps people register to vote. As a result of the law, the organization would have to devote more of its limited resources to helping people obtain ID.

"The voter ID law has placed substantial burdens on the shoulders of countless voters, primarily those who are African-American, elderly and low-income," said Brenda Williams, executive director of the Family Unit. "These individuals are being denied rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. By passing this law, our state is going back to a dark time in history when it comes to civil rights."

Under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, states with a history of discriminatory voting laws – including South Carolina – must have changes to their voting laws approved, or precleared, by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) or the federal district court in Washington. The ACLU submitted two comment letters to DOJ opposing preclearance of South Carolina's law, Act R54. DOJ blocked the law in December and on Feb. 7, South Carolina took the issue to court.

The ACLU has also sent comment letters opposing a voter ID law in Texas and filed a lawsuit against Wisconsin's voter ID law.

To read the motion to intervene, go to: www.aclu.org/voting-rights/south-carolina-v-holder-memorandum-support-motion-leave-intervene-defendants.

For more information about voter suppression, go to: www.aclu.org/voter-suppression-america.

 

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