The Supreme Court said Monday that South Carolina can keep its redrawn state house and congressional maps despite a challenge from black voters in the state. The justices offered no comment when they rejected the appeal from voters, who wanted the court to re-examine the newly drawn borders of state house and congressional districts. In 2012, six black voters from counties in the southern and eastern parts of the state sued Republican Gov. Nikki Haley and the Republican-controlled state legislature. They sought to throw out the redrawn district maps and prevent the state from holding any elections based on those maps. They argued the maps pushed black voters into one congressional district and created “voting apartheid.”
South Carolina: Four Pinocchios: The case of ‘zombie’ voters in South Carolina | The Washington Post
“We just recently learned that there are over 900 individuals who had died before the election (and had voted) and at least 600 of those individuals had died way outside the window that an absentee ballot could have been sent, so we know for a fact that there are deceased people whose identities are being used in elections in South Carolina.”— South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson (R), on Fox News, Jan. 21, 2012
“We found out that there were over 900 people who died and then subsequently voted. That number could be even higher than that.” — Wilson, on Fox News, Jan. 12, 2012
“Without Photo ID, let’s be clear, I don’t want dead people voting in the state of South Carolina.” — South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R), in an interview that aired on Fox News, April 21, 2012
We don’t normally delve into statements so long after they were made, but this is an unusual case, brought to our attention by a reader. Take a look at the rather definitive statements made by South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, such as “we know for a fact that there are deceased people whose identities are being used in elections in South Carolina.” This was a rather shocking claim, which stemmed from allegations made by Kevin Schwedo, executive director of the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles. (“Well over 900 individuals appear to have voted after they died.”) One state lawmaker famously declared: “We must have certainty in South Carolina that zombies aren’t voting.”
South Carolina: Nikki Haley Takes Heat After Report Blows Up ‘Bogus’ Voter Fraud Claims | Huffington Post
For years, South Carolina Republicans have complained about the names of dead voters being used to cast ballots in a broad voter fraud scheme. Now that a recent report by the State Law Enforcement Division has blown up those claims, unable to find a single example of a “zombie voter” committing fraud, one Democrat is demanding that Gov. Nikki Haley (R) apologize for her party’s “bogus” crusade. In a statement released Monday, House Democratic Leader Todd Rutherford accused Haley and other Republicans of deliberately and deceptively pushing false claims for political gain. “Now we have the proof that shows that the accusations of voter fraud were completely without merit,” said Rutherford. “And once again, South Carolina’s taxpayers have to foot the bill for the millions of dollars unnecessarily spent as a result of Governor Haley and her colleagues’ incompetence and blind-ideology.”
On the heels of the 2012 election, a team of Republican state senators joined former Attorney General Henry McMaster at Gov. Nikki Haley’s signing of the Equal Access to the Ballot Act. The Senate bill aimed to correct issues that prevented more than 200 candidates from being booted off ballots across the state. Last year, elections officials said the candidates did not properly file paperwork to join the races. “When you run for office, it’s a true sacrifice, it’s an individual sacrifice, it’s a family sacrifice, and you have to fight,” said Gov. Nikki Haley. “What we saw last election was one of the most painful things you can ever see in an election – you had 200 people wanting to fight, wanting to serve and they were denied access to the ballot. With this bill we are saying that no party or individual will ever get in the way of someone running for office. We are fighters in South Carolina and we want more fighters.”
The Justice Department will monitor voting in Charleston County, South Carolina, in Tuesday’s special election to fill a House of Representatives seat, the department said on Monday. Former South Carolina Republican Governor Mark Sanford is facing Democratic newcomer Elizabeth Colbert Busch, sister of television political satirist Stephen Colbert, in the First District House race. The Justice Department said in a statement it was monitoring the election under provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The law bars election discrimination on the basis of race, color or membership in a minority language group.
South Carolina apparently will recoup “tens of thousands of dollars” spent to sue the federal government over the state’s voter ID law. But before we break out the champagne and noisemakers, we need to note that the total bill came to $3.5 million, and for what? During the 2011 legislative session, the state passed a law that ostensibly required anyone hoping to vote to produce an official photo ID of some kind. In December 2011, the U.S. Attorney General’s Office blocked the law from going into effect, saying it would disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of South Carolina voters – mostly minorities and elderly residents who don’t have photo IDs. S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson then sued the government at a cost of $3.5 million, most of which was used to pay for outside lawyers to argue the case. That was roughly three times Wilson’s original estimate of what the case would cost.
South Carolina: South Carolina Governor Haley admits state failed to protect its residents | TheState.com
As more South Carolinians learned that hackers hold their tax return data, Gov. Nikki Haley admitted Tuesday that the state did not do enough to protect their sensitive financial information and accepted the resignation of the agency director in the middle of the controversy. “Could South Carolina have done a better job? Absolutely, or we would not be standing here,” said Haley, who had insisted in the first days after revealing the cyber attack that nothing could have prevented the breach. Hackers possess Social Security and other data belonging to 5.7 million people – 3.8 million taxpayers and their 1.9 million dependents, Haley said. The number of businesses affected has risen slightly to nearly 700,000. All of the stolen tax data dating back to 1998 was unencrypted.
South Carolina: States’ voter ID laws are underlying issue in 2012 presidential race | The Washington Post
South Carolina is in federal court arguing that its new law requiring people prove their identity at the polls won’t make voting so tough that it reduces turnout of African-Americans, Hispanics and other minorities. A federal panel is to determine whether South Carolina’s voter identification law violates the Voting Rights Act by putting heavy burdens on minorities who don’t have the identification. Last December, the Justice Department refused to allow South Carolina to require the photo IDs, saying doing so would reverse the voting gains of the states’ minorities. Closing arguments in the case — which went to trial in August and included several state officials as witnesses — were scheduled for Monday. South Carolina has said it would implement the law immediately if the three-judge panel upholds it, although a decision either way is likely to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Eight weeks before the presidential election, new laws passed by Republican legislatures that concern who can vote and when remain in the hands of federal and state judges. Among the cases: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court this week will hear an appeal to overturn that state’s new voter ID law. An appeal is expected in a case involving early voting in Ohio. And a federal court is still considering whether South Carolina can go ahead with its new voter ID law. On Aug. 28, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley drew huge applause during her Republican National Convention speech when she promoted the state’s new law, which — if upheld — would require a state-approved photo identification at the polls. “We said in South Carolina that if you have to show a picture ID to buy Sudafed, if you have to show a picture ID to set foot on an airplane, then you should have to show picture ID to protect one of the most valuable, most central, sacred rights we are blessed with in America — the right to vote,” said Haley.
A revised timetable for a federal lawsuit over South Carolina’s voter ID law would make it harder for the new state requirements to impact the Nov. 6 general election. On Tuesday, the judges who will consider the case rescheduled oral arguments for September 24. That’s nearly two months later than originally planned – and is also more than a week after the deadline by which state officials have said they would need a decision in order to prepare to implement the law this year. The three-judge panel doesn’t forecast when it might rule in the case. But state prosecutors say they’ll need a determination by September 15 in order to have enough time to make sure people understand the requirements. In December, the federal government blocked South Carolina’s photo ID requirement in December, saying it could keep tens of thousands of the state’s minorities from casting ballots and failed to meet requirements of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which requires approval from that agency for changes to South Carolina’s election laws because of the state’s past failure to protect blacks’ voting rights.
Tuesday, Atlantic Beach held an election that was ordered by Governor Nikki Haley in March. “When the governor issues an executive order for a state agency to do something, we react,” said State Election Commission spokesperson Chris Whitmire. “We want the voters to have an opportunity to cast a ballot today in a fair election and have the reassurance that their votes will count.” Governor Haley issued the order because she felt the town’s election commission did not act swiftly enough. Atlantic Beach’s Election Commission threw out the town’s November 2011 election after some of the losing candidates appealed the results, but the commission did not set a new election date. The governor’s order also included Horry County overseeing the election instead of Atlantic Beach.
Although some Atlantic Beach officials have said there will be no special election on Tuesday, Gov. Nikki Haley’s order for the vote still stands, and Horry County and state elections officials are going forward with their plans. The election became necessary after the the Nov. 1 results were challenged and then declared void by the town’s election commission. But when the election commission didn’t set a date for a new election, the governor stepped in and issued the order in March.
The South Carolina Election Commission told the state Republican Party on Thursday that it effectively can’t put a challenger to Gov. Nikki Haley’s chief legislative opponent back on the June primary ballot. The commission said in an email Thursday the state GOP can’t recertify state Senate candidate Katrina Shealy, two weeks after decertifying her and other contenders. It noted the state Supreme Court set a noon May 4 deadline for the GOP and Democratic parties to submit their lists of candidates who properly filed financial forms, and that ruling must be heeded. Shealy was among some 200 candidates for offices statewide decertified for not filing correctly. “To accept candidates after that would be in violation of that order,” election commission spokesman Chris Whitmire told The Associated Press. “The June primary ballots are set. Ballots have been printed. Voting machines have been prepared, and voters are voting.”
South Carolina: Justice Department: South Carolina voter ID law violates Voting Rights Act | USAToday.com
South Carolina’s voter ID law violates the Voting Rights Act and discriminates against minorities despite the state’s assertions to the contrary, the Obama administration says in new court papers. The U.S. Justice Department’s comments came in a 12-page document filed Monday with a District of Columbia court in response to South Carolina’s Feb. 7 voter ID lawsuit. Justice lawyers urged the judges to reject the state’s request for a declaratory judgment, which is a speedy decision by judges without a trial. The administration rejects South Carolina’s claim that the voter ID law “will not have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color or membership in a language minority group,” Justice Department lawyers wrote in their legal brief. South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office provided a copy of the brief Tuesday.
South Carolina: Lawsuit over voter ID could cost taxpayers more than $1 million | The Post and Courier
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.
South Carolina: Dead Wrong? Election Official Disputes Claim That Deceased Voted in South Carolina | Columbia Free Times
A top state election official disputes a recent claim that more than 950 people who voted in recent elections could actually be dead. Of the six names her office was allowed to examine, all were eligible to vote. But to hear some Republican officials tell it, you’d think that on Election Day in South Carolina, graveyards all across the state empty out and hordes of zombie voters lurch to the polls. But dead people can’t vote. They’re dead.
The thousands who flocked to the South Carolina State House Monday to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy received a message that the fight for civil rights and voting equality is not relegated to history books. NAACP leaders said that the state’s new voter I.D. law, which requires all voters to show certain government-issued photo I.D., goes against King’s principles of equality because the state’s registered minority voters are 20 percent more likely to be without the right I.D. and thus unable to cast ballots. NAACP president Benjamin Jealous said the law, and ones like it in other states, are the “greatest attack on voting rights since segregation.”
South Carolina’s controversial voter ID law will be in the spotlight today as U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder addresses a crowd of marchers honoring the life and work of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at the State House.
The state, since 2000, has commemorated the life of the civil rights leader with an NAACP-led march to the State House. This year’s King Day at the Dome, beginning with an 8:30 a.m. prayer service at Zion Baptist Church, also will feature NAACP president Benjamin Todd Jealous. South Carolina’s passage, and the U.S. Justice Department’s subsequent rejection of, a controversial voter ID law last year has sparked a rancorous political fight and put the state on a collision course with Washington over state and federal powers.The courts may ultimately resolve the standoff.
Three of South Carolina’s top political leaders announced Tuesday their plans to file a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice’s decision to block the state’s controversial voter ID law. Attorney General Alan Wilson said he will file a lawsuit within the next two weeks against the Justice Department in Washington D.C. district court. It’s necessary, Wilson said, to protect the integrity of South Carolina elections.
South Carolina: Haley, South Carolina to Sue Federal Government Over Voter ID | Mount Pleasant, SC Patch
S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson on Tuesday said the state will file suit against the U.S. Department of Justice, which last month rejected the state’s new Voter ID law requiring all voters to show a valid state-approved photo ID in order to cast a ballot. Wilson said his office planned to file suit within the next 10 days in the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia, as Patch first reported last week.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said Tuesday that federal officials are waging war with South Carolina over laws the people want, like new voter ID requirements that she and other leaders pledged to defend from challenges by the U.S. Justice Department. … The bill passed last year with broad support from Republicans, who said it would be a check on voting fraud. But Democrats said it would suppress voter turnout by making it tougher on people who lacked identification, including the poor, elderly and blacks.
The Justice Department’s rejection of South Carolina’s voter ID law probably won’t prevent other states from adopting similar measures, analysts say. “Unfortunately, I don’t think this is going to have a significant chilling effect,” said Wendy Weiser, a voter ID opponent and lawyer at the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University law school.
The South Carolina law would have required voters to show one of five government-issued IDs — such as a drivers license or passport — before casting a ballot. Justice officials said the state didn’t show the law complied with the 1965 Voter Rights Act and didn’t justify the need for the law or prove widespread voter impersonation, which tougher ID laws are designed to prevent. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has promised to appeal.
Eric Holder must be amazed that President Obama was elected and he could become Attorney General. That’s a fair inference after the Attorney General last Friday blocked South Carolina’s voter ID law on grounds that it would hurt minorities. What a political abuse of law.
In a letter to South Carolina’s government, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez called the state law—which would require voters to present one of five forms of photo ID at the polls—a violation of Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Overall, he noted, 8.4% of the state’s registered white voters lack photo ID, compared to 10% of nonwhite voters. This is the yawning chasm the Justice Department is now using to justify the unprecedented federal intrusion into state election law, and the first denial of a “pre-clearance” Voting Rights request since 1994.
The Justice Department’s decision last week to block a new South Carolina law requiring voters to present photo identification is only the first of what will be a year-long battle between advocates and opponents of stricter voting laws. And the results of those fights could determine the winner of the 2012 presidential election.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a Republican, said her state will appeal DOJ’s decision in court, casting it as “bullying” by the federal government. At the same time, civil right groups are promising to fight similar provisions in states such as Wisconsin and Texas, arguing these laws unfairly target minorities, who are less likely to hold photo identification.
It wasn’t long after the Justice Department blocked South Carolina’s voter ID law on Friday that Republicans accused the Obama administration of putting the President’s reelection ahead of preventing voter fraud. “Obama’s S.C. voter ID decision shows he’s putting the 2012 election above policy by opposing efforts to protect against cheating and fraud,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus wrote on Twitter, indirectly acknowledging that voter ID laws suppress Democratic voter turnout. “Moreover, from S.C. decision looks like they just want to benefit from cheating and fraud.”
“It is outrageous, and we plan to look at every possible option to get this terrible, clearly political decision overturned so we can protect the integrity of our electoral process and our 10th Amendment rights,” Gov. Nikki Haley said in a statement.
Here’s the problem, though: In-person voter impersonation fraud is an extremely risky and ineffective way to try to steal an election and there’s been no evidence of in-person voter impersonation fraud — the only type of voter fraud that strict voter ID laws could potentially prevent — taking place in South Carolina. But Republicans have taken the position that the laws are necessary. They also strongly reject the suggestion that the laws are racially discriminatory, though South Carolina’s own data showed that non-white voters were 20 percent more likely than white voters to lack the specific type of photo voter ID required under South Carolina’s statute.
The Justice Department on Friday blocked a new South Carolina law that would require voters to present photo identification, saying the law would disproportionately suppress turnout among eligible minority voters.
The move was the first time since 1994 that the department has exercised its powers under the Voting Rights Act to block a voter identification law. It followed a speech this month by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. that signaled an aggressive stance in reviewing a wave of new state voting restrictions, largely enacted by Republicans in the name of fighting fraud.
In a letter to the South Carolina government, Thomas E. Perez, the assistant attorney for civil rights, said that allowing the new requirement to go into effect would have “significant racial disparities.”
South Carolina: Justice Department rejects South Carolina voter ID law, calling it discriminatory | The Washington Post
The Justice Department on Friday entered the divisive national debate over new state voting laws, rejecting South Carolina’s measure requiring photo-identification at the polls as discriminatory against minority voters.
The decision by Justice’s Civil Rights Division could heighten political tensions over the new laws, which critics say could depress turnout among minorities and others who helped elect President Obama in 2008. A dozen states this year passed laws requiring voters to present state-issued photo identification, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Although Democratic governors vetoed four of the measures, liberal and civil rights groups have raised alarms about the remaining laws. Opponents of the laws say they would discriminate against minorities and others, such as low-income voters, because some don’t have the necessary photo identification and lack the means to easily obtain ID cards. Conservatives and other supporters of the tighter laws say they are needed to combat voter fraud.
The U.S. Department of Justice will block the voter ID provisions of an election law passed in South Carolina earlier this year because the state’s own statistics demonstrated that the photo identification requirement would have a much greater impact on non-white residents, DOJ said in a letter to the state on Friday. The decision places the federal government squarely in opposition to the types of voter ID requirements that have swept through mostly Republican-controlled state legislatures.
Officials in DOJ’s Civil Rights Division found a significant racial disparity in the data provided by South Carolina, which must have changes to its election laws precleared under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, because of past history of discrimination. The data demonstrated that registered non-white voters were 20 percent more likely than white voters to lack the specific type of photo identification required to exercise their constitutional rights, according to a letter sent to South Carolina and obtained by TPM.
“Put differently, although non-white voters comprised 30.4% of the state’s registered voters, they constituted 34.2% of registered voters who did not have the requisite DMV-issued identification to vote,” Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez, who heads the Civil Rights Division, wrote in the letter to South Carolina. “Non-white voters were therefore disproportionally represented, to a significant degree, in the group of registered voters who, under the proposed law, would be rendered ineligible to go to the polls and participate in the election.”
As a proud son of South Carolina I must address recent unsubstantiated rumors published in The State that I, Stephen Colbert, tried to buy the naming rights to the 2012 Republican primary. First, never trust anything in a newspaper — except this column, and possibly “Mallard Filmore.” And second, these outrageous and scurrilous rumors border on libel, even if they are, technically, true. I don’t want to talk about it. Here’s what happened:
I have what’s called a super PAC — a political action committee that can receive unlimited funds to spend on political speech in unlimited quantities. About three months ago, I heard that local officials in South Carolina were suing the state political parties over who would pay for the upcoming presidential primary. The GOP said they would pay a big chunk of the cost, but insisted the taxpayers pick up the bulk. State and local officials said this private primary should be paid for entirely with party funds. And Gov. Nikki Haley said, “It’s a great day in South Carolina!”
Voting Blogs: “We do not have a constitutional right to buy Sudafed or be a frequent flier; we do have a constitutional right to vote.” | State of Elections
On May 11, 2011, the South Carolina General Assembly passed Act R54. The new law would require individuals to present photo identification to vote. Governor Nikki Haley signed the bill a week later.The Department of Justice has yet to pre-clear the new law, stating that it needs proof from South Carolina that Act R54 would not disenfranchise voters. Valid forms of identification include a South Carolina driver’s license, a passport, military identification, a voter registration card with a photograph, or another form of photographic identification from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
Chris Whitmire, Director of Public Relations and Training at the South Carolina State Election Commission (SCSEC), spoke to me about the preparations taking place if the law is pre-cleared. These preparations include training county election officials, notifying registered voters without proper identification through direct mail, and a social media campaign about the new law. The General Assembly allocated $535,000 to the SCSEC for the voter education campaign and the creation of new voter registration cards that contain a photograph of the voter.