It cost South Carolina $3.5 million to sue the federal government over the state’s voter ID law – but the federal government will have to pay some of that bill. Late Friday, a court ruled that because South Carolina was the “prevailing party,” the federal government had to pay some of South Carolina’s expenses. A spokesman for S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson said he did not know how much money the federal government would pay South Carolina. The state has until Jan. 11 to file a revised bill with the court.
The $3.5 million price tag was more than three times Wilson’s original estimate. Friday morning, before the court had issued its order, a panel of state lawmakers approved a $2 million budget adjustment for Wilson’s office to pay for the lawsuit – a figure that surprised Democrats. But sources inside the Attorney General’s Office heralded the court order as validation that it had won the lawsuit. Democrats called the celebrations “smoke and mirrors,” noting that the ruling upheld a much weaker voter ID law than lawmakers originally passed.
The judges, for their part, walked the middle ground. “South Carolina is the prevailing party,” the judges wrote in their decision. “To be sure, South Carolina did not obtain everything it sought. But the prevailing party test does not demand complete success.”