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Voter ID

Posted: January 10, 2012 5:34 p.m.
Updated: January 11, 2012 5:00 a.m.

Here in Kershaw County, we're like other Americans who live in a world in which we have to prove who we are. Before we are allowed to board airplanes, we must provide identification cards with our pictures on them. When we cash a check at the grocery store, the clerk usually asks for picture ID. When we pick up prescriptions at the pharmacy, we’re often required to show similar proof of identification. Yet U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has blocked a South Carolina law requiring voters to show picture IDs when they go to the polls to cast their ballots, his move coming despite the fact that 30 states now have such laws.

Holder says such a requirement is illegal, violating Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a law that was wisely passed nearly a half century ago to help eliminate the horrid discrimination that occurred at the polls during that Jim Crow era of U.S. history. He and the Justice Department contend a voter ID law is intended to repress the minority vote though there is no evidence of that. Proving your identity is a fact of life in the world in which we live.

Studies show that 10 percent of registered African-American voters don’t have a photo ID, which is only 1.5 percentage points over the number of registered white voters who don’t possess such a credential. That’s hardly the kind of overwhelming difference to justify a Voting Right Act violation. And the state has also offered to provide free transportation to anyone to a Department of Motor Vehicle office to obtain a free ID card. Furthermore, many of those reported to be lacking ID have voluntarily let theirs expire, have left the state or are dead. Lyndon Johnson is credited with saying many years ago that one dead person had just as much right to vote as another. That makes for a good story, but in 2012 in South Carolina, we hardly want the deceased to be casting ballots. Producing photo identification is a reasonable way to avoid that.

This state at one time had a shamefully discriminatory voting practice. That no longer is the case, fortunately. Requiring people to meet the same standards for voting as they must meet in cashing a check or picking up a prescription hardly seems the despicable act Holder and Justice Department portray. This case will probably end up in federal court, and could ultimately make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.  If so, it’s doubtful that the highest court in this land will place more importance on getting on a plane that in casting a ballot.

 

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