A panel of federal judges in Washington blocked enforcement of South Carolina’s new voter identification law for the 2012 elections but rejected claims by the Justice Department that it would disenfranchise black voters.
The special court, made up of two federal district judges and a federal appeals judge, said in a 41-page ruling that South Carolina could enforce the law, but not until 2013, to ensure the state had enough time to fully implement it. The law requires voters to present photo IDs at the polls or, for those who had “a reasonable impediment” that prevented them from obtaining one, to sign an affidavit attesting to their identity.
The Justice Department had argued that the law would unfairly burden black voters, who were less likely to have photo identification than white voters. About 96% of whites and about 92-94% of blacks currently have photo IDs that are accepted under the law, court records show.
South Carolina must “preclear” laws that affect voting with the Justice Department or the courts under the Voting Rights Act, which bars states from passing measures that deny or abridge the right to vote on account of race or color.
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