South Carolina voter ID law struck down

COLUMBIA, S.C. - The U.S. Department of Justice rejected South Carolina's voter ID law Friday, saying the new policy doesn't do enough to ensure that minority voters aren't discriminated against.

"Until South Carolina succeeds in substantially addressing the racial disparities described above, however, the state cannot meet its burden of proving that, when compared to the benchmark standard, the voter identification requirements proposed ... will not have a retrogressive effect," Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez wrote Friday in a letter to the office of South Carolina's attorney general.

Perez said that non-whites comprise about one-third of South Carolina's registered voters and also are one-third of the registered voters who don't have the right ID necessary to vote. Perez says tens of thousands of South Carolina minorities may be unable to cast ballots.

In response, South Carolina could now sue over the rejection, pass a new law or submit more data to the Justice Department. Spokesmen for Gov. Nikki Haley and Attorney General Alan Wilson did not immediately respond to email messages sent Friday, which was a state holiday.

South Carolina's new voter ID law requires people casting ballots to show poll workers a state-issued driver's license or ID card; a U.S. military ID or a U.S. passport.

The Justice Department must approve changes to South Carolina's election laws under the federal Voting Rights Act because of the state's past failure to protect the voting rights of blacks. Groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union also are challenging it.