Closing arguments set for South Carolina voting case

September 24, 2012

By James Rosen, Washington Post

Closing arguments Monday over South Carolina’s voter-identification law will cap an extraordinary case that has seen charges of racism directed at the law’s author and federal judges’ open frustration over state officials’ changing stances on implementing it.

Opponents of the embattled law, which U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. blocked last year under the 1965 Voting Rights Act, will challenge the credibility of its chief author, state Rep. Alan D. Clemmons (R) of Myrtle Beach.

Attorneys for the voter-ID law’s foes, including civil rights groups, will say Clemmons took false credit for its “reasonable impediment” clause, which allows voters to cast ballots if they have “reasonable” reasons for not having photo identification. Attorneys also will say Clemmons misrepresented his relationship with a man who sent him an e-mail about the law that the lawmaker acknowledged under oath last month was racist.

And the lawyers trying to kill the law will argue that Alan Wilson, South Carolina attorney general, and Marci Andino, executive director of the State Election Commission, lack the legal authority to implement the voter-ID law in ways that contradict the law’s text or other relevant state laws.


Attorneys for South Carolina will respond that the voter-ID law is aimed at preventing election fraud, and they’ll point to key Supreme Court rulings that states don’t need to show the existence of fraud in order to take steps against it. Attorneys also will argue that state officials’ plans for implementing the law aren’t contradictory or at variance with its provisions.

At issue under the Voting Rights Act, which protects minorities’ access to the ballot box, is whether the South Carolina law’s requirement that voters possess one of five forms of photo identification would have a disproportionately harmful impact on African Americans. Of several cases in which state voter-ID laws are under legal scrutiny, South Carolina’s is among the most closely watched because of the state’s troubled history of racial relations and because it could have national implications from an expected future U.S. Supreme Court ruling on it.

Garrard Beeney, lead attorney for the intervenors, which include civil rights groups and individual South Carolinians who claim the law would hurt them, said trial testimony last month showed that minority voters would feel its brunt. They are poorer as a whole and would have more difficulty obtaining the photo IDs, he said.

“There really is no dispute from anyone at this trial that blacks are less likely than whites to have the new kinds of ID voters would have to have,” Beeney said in an interview Friday.

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2 Comments - what are your thoughts?

  • Rattlerjake says:

    Nothing but excuses. There is NO reason that anyone of any race can’t get the required ID unless they are NOT legitimate voters. Liberals in this country use racism as a crutch for everyone who disagrees with their totalitarian rule. This constant legal wrangling is doing nothing but costing hardworking taxpayers millions of wasted dollars each year and lining the pockets of the lawyers.

  • CTH says:

    Instead of castigating the South Carolina officials, the court should address the removal of Eric Holder as Attorney General, if for no other reason than total incompetence. The courts should then delve into the question of the constitutionality of the miscalled Voters Rights Act under the equal protection provisions of the Constitution.

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