COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The federal government has officially objected to claims that South Carolina's new voter identification law is fair to minorities, according to court documents filed Monday.
The arguments constitute U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's response to a lawsuit by South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson. The Republican sued Holder earlier this year, arguing that the state's new law that requires voters to have photo ID law is not discriminatory and is similar to one in Indiana that has already been upheld.
In the government's response, Holder's attorneys deny Wilson's claims, repeatedly referencing the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution, saying the wording of South Carolina's law "speaks for itself."
A scheduling conference in the case is set for Friday. The judges have also asked Wilson to file court papers identifying the latest date on which the photo ID requirement must become effective to apply to the November 2012 elections.
The Justice Department blocked the law in December, saying it could keep tens of thousands of the state's minorities from casting ballots. Justice officials also said the law failed to meet requirements of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which requires the Justice Department to approve changes to South Carolina's election laws because of the state's past failure to protect blacks' voting rights.
Passed by a Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by GOP Gov. Nikki Haley, South Carolina's law requires voters to present government-issued photo IDs at the polls. The state is also required to determine how many voters lack state-issued IDs so that the Election Commission can inform them of the new law. The Department of Motor Vehicles will issue free state photo identification cards to those voters.
The panel of three federal judges who are hearing the case has allowed three groups to take part in the case on the side of the federal government. The American Civil Liberties Union represents three voters who say they have been unable to get the photo identification required by the law in order to vote
The League of Women Voters argued that the law would hinder its Election Day duties of helping with a voter protection hotline and mean the League spends fewer resources on voter registration. Attorneys for the NAACP, which represents five black Benedict College students who wouldn't be able to use their school-issued ID cards at the polls, said the law would keep black voters from being able to cast ballots.
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