On October 11, 2012, a federal court blocked South Carolina from implementing its photo ID law in time for next month’s election, recognizing that there is not enough time to educate voters and elections officials about it. The evidence in this case demonstrated that Black registered voters are nearly 20 percent more likely to lack a photo ID than white registered voters.
LDF, on behalf of its clients the South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP and Black college students, entered the case to challenge the discriminatory law.
The court will allow South Carolina to implement its law in 2013, but the State must make “extremely broad” exceptions for those voters who lack photo ID cards, allowing them to cast ballots as long as they give a reason for not having obtained one. The court expressed that if South Carolina later seeks to interpret the law more strictly, it would first have to seek federal permission under the Voting Rights Act.
As the court recognized, “To state the obvious, [South Carolina’s photo ID measure] as now precleared is not the [South Carolina photo ID] enacted in May 2011.”
The court also made this important observation: “one cannot doubt the vital function that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act played here. Without the review process under the Voting Rights Act, South Carolina’s voter photo ID law certainly would have been more restrictive.” “The history of [South Carolina’s photo ID],” the court continued, “demonstrates the continuing utility of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act in deterring problematic, and hence encouraging non-discriminatory, changes in state and local voting laws.”
South Carolina joined three other states—Texas, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania—whose photo ID measures have been blocked by courts.