Prior to Shelby County v. Holder in 2013, South Carolina was a covered jurisdiction under Section Five of the Voting Rights Act. In 2011, during Legislative Session 119, the South Carolina legislature passed, and the Governor signed, an act that made voting-related changes. Section Five of Act R54 (A27 H3003) (2011) dealt with voter identification. Because this happened prior to Shelby County v. Holder, pre-clearance was required. The State asked for pre-clearance from the Attorney General of the United States, but it was denied. South Carolina then sought a declaratory judgment in the D.C. District Court. Act R54 was pre-cleared by the court, in an opinion filed on October 10, 2012. However, due to concerns about the ability of South Carolina to effectively implement the law before the elections of November 2012, the court delayed the law’s effect until any elections in 2013.
South Dakota passed a non-strict, photo ID law in 2003, and since then the number of states that have passed photo ID laws for voting has steadily increased. Voter ID laws have always been controversial. Several have been passed or changed since the decision of Shelby County. Why would this law be cleared, and why has it not been challenged since it went into effect?
The D.C. District Court evaluated the effects of Act R54 against the ID law that was in effect at the time, and had been, in that form, since 1988. This comparison was key for the court. Under the old law, a voter was required to show a South Carolina driver’s license, DMV photo ID, or a voter registration card (with no photo). Under the new law, a voter is required to present: a South Carolina driver’s license; DMV photo ID; passport; military photo ID; or a South Carolina voter registration card with a photo. The court noted that this law expanded the types of identification that could be used, and even created a new type of ID (a voter registration card with photo) that could be procured for free. The law also made the DMV photo ID free, as opposed to the $5 it previously cost.