South Carolina taxpayers will be on the hook for a high-powered Washington attorney’s $520-an-hour rate when the state sues the federal government this week to protect its voter ID law. That litigation could cost more than $1 million, according to two South Carolina attorneys who have practiced before the U.S. Supreme Court. Supporters of South Carolna’s voter ID law say it is necessary to prevent voter fraud. Opponents say there is no proof that a voter-fraud problem exists.S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson has more than five dozen staff attorneys to handle the state’s legal affairs, but Wilson hired a former U.S. solicitor general to litigate the voter ID case at a rate of $520 an hour, a contract obtained last week reveals.
The law would require voters to present official photo identification at the polls. Additional contracted associates and paralegals will earn between $180 and $200 an hour on the case. “It wouldn’t cost anything if (U.S. Attorney General) Eric Holder and the Department of Justice would get out of the way and let us protect our citizens and enforce our laws,” Rob Godfrey, a spokesman for Gov. Nikki Haley, said in a statement.
Independent political analysts, however, are asking whether a
costly, lengthy legal battle on voter ID is worth the state’s time and money. With little evidence of voter fraud, South Carolina has more urgent issues to tackle, they said. “With states like South Carolina facing budgetary restrictions, it’s interesting they can make funds available for this type of activity,” said J. Michael Bitzer, who has followed South Carolina politics for two decades and now teaches political science at Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C. “People will question, ‘Why isn’t this going to education or other principle public services.’ It plays well with (Haley’s) base though.”