Next week, state attorney general Alan Wilson will attempt to contest the U.S. Dept. of Justice’s rejection of South Carolina’s “voter ID” law. The case is taking a new twist, however, thanks to the AG of another state. Today, Arizona’s Thomas Horne filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court, claiming that one particular part of the Voting Rights Act unfairly affects the nine states that are subject to its laws. Section Five of the Act notes that any change to voting laws in subject states must be approved by the federal government. Some other states not subject to VRA, though, have already changed their own laws pertaining to voting and didn’t require federal approval for those changes, Horne notes. Different formats of voter identification requirements are used in some of those other states, Horne notes, and the federal government didn’t interfere in those cases. Minority voters are still subject to discrimination in those states, too, he says. Because South Carolina and nine other states are the only ones subject to the Voting Rights Act, Horne concludes, it has unfairly lost its own right to discriminate. Section Five of the VRA “undermines the principal of equal sovereignty,” he says.
“Because the VRA’s purpose is to eradicate voting discrimination for all United States citizens, treating States differently is not congruent with the Act’s purpose.” In other words, Horne says that if they can do it, so can we. What Horne overlooks, however – and right along with South Carolina’s Alan Wilson and all of the state legislature that first voted for this bill back in May 2011 – is that the state already had requirements for voters to present identification before being allowed to partake in an election. Citizens had to provide a voter registration card, a driver’s license, student ID or other means to clarify their identity before being allowed to vote.
The new law, which the Dept. of Justice overruled last December, attempted to restrict the format of acceptable ID to that of a picture-bearing card issued by the state. Had it been accepted, over 239,000 South Carolinians – who were already registered, mind you – would have lost their right to vote.