Feds Nix Vote Suppression Law in S.C.
South Carolina's past came back to haunt the state last week when the Department of Justice rejected its new voter identification law, a tarted-up version of the Jim Crow era poll tax. Because of the state's history of electoral abuses aimed at minorities, South Carolina and many other jurisdictions in the South must have any new voting measures likely to affect minorities approved by the U.S. attorney general or a panel of federal judges under the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Proponents insist such laws are needed to stop voting fraud...except voting fraud is virtually non-existent. After an intense investigation by the Bush Justice Department between 2002 and 2006, the government prosecuted exactly zero voting fraud cases despite 300 million ballots cast during that period.
When I told a conservative friend this, he went off on ACORN, which is also non-existent. "I don't understand why people have a problem getting a photo ID," whined another buddy who's a Tea Partier. Not the point, I patiently explained. In the past, you could show up at the polls with a voter registration card and sign an affidavit. Why, suddenly, is it necessary to obtain a government issued picture ID?
Here's a possible answer: The Justice Department told South Carolina its law was discriminatory because minority voters in the state were 20 percent less likely to have a governnment-issued photo ID.
Let's be honest, shall we? African-Americans generally don't favor Republican policies or candidates. This is reflected in the number of minorities who call themselves Republicans, just 11 percent, according to a 2009 Gallup poll. More telling is that 95 percent of African-American voters went for Barack Obama in 2008.
None of this is lost on the GOP-controlled state legislatures that scurried to pass strict new voter ID laws in the wake of Obama's inauguration. The goal is very simple: Place as many obstacles as possible between voting booths and those likely to cast their ballots for Democrats.
It's not going to stand, as the good folks in the Palmetto State learned.