Closing arguments Monday about South Carolina’s voter ID law will cap an extraordinary case that already has seen charges of racism directed at the law’s author as well as federal judges’ open frustration over state officials’ changing stances on how they would enact the law. Opponents of the embattled law, which U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder blocked last year under the 1965 Voting Rights Act, will challenge the credibility of its chief author, state Rep. Allan Clemmons, R-Myrtle Beach. Lawyers for groups opposed to the voter ID law, 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.
Those lawyers also will say Clemmons misrepresented his relationship with a man who sent him an email about the law that the Myrtle Beach Republican acknowledged under oath last month was racist. Clemmons responded to that email, “Amen … thank you for your support.’” The attorneys trying to kill the law also will argue that S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson 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.
Lawyers for South Carolina will respond that the voter ID law is aimed at preventing election fraud. They will point to key Supreme Court rulings that states don’t need to show the existence of fraud in order to take steps against it. The state’s attorneys also will argue that state officials’ plans to enact the law aren’t contradictory or at variance with its provisions.