Voter ID lawsuit planned

Gov. Nikki Haley and S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson

COLUMBIA -- S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson said Tuesday he will file a federal suit against the U.S. Justice Department to try to remove its objection to the state's new Voter ID law.

Wilson was joined by Gov. Nikki Haley and S.C. Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell to make good on a promise made last month, shortly after Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perez blocked the new law, which requires voters to bring a photo ID to the polls.

Haley denied the new law would suppress voters, noting the state's Department of Motor Vehicles is issuing photo IDs at no cost -- and the state is willing to drive voters to DMV offices. Fewer than 30 residents took the state up on its offer, she said.

"There is nothing we want more than to make sure every person in South Carolina has the right to vote," she said. "We want to protect the integrity of our voting process."

Wilson said the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld a similar law in Indiana. South Carolina's lawsuit will be filed within the next two weeks in Washington D.C., he added.

"That is of paramount importance: that we protect the electoral process and ensure that voter irregularities and potential voter fraud is curtailed, curbed or prevented."

South Carolina needed the Justice Department's blessing under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was designed to correct the state's past abuses.

As the Republicans' press conference broke up, state Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Columbia, slipped in front of the microphones and said South Carolina's voter ID law is more aggressive than Georgia's, which allows more kinds of photo IDs.

"Georgia's law is vastly different from the law in South Carolina," he said. "They (South Carolina Republicans) had to go much further to make sure people would lose the right to vote."

While the State Election Commission has indicated that more than 230,000 South Carolina voters don't have a DMV-issued photo ID, Wilson said officials are looking closely to see how many are deceased, have moved out of state or simply have a slightly different name on their voter registration than their driver's license.

"There are huge discrepancies," Wilson said, adding that his office still is cooperating with the Department of Justice. "There's one person on the election commission's list that's 130 years old."

Haley and Wilson said the state has seen voting irregularities, but opponents have maintained the bill is simply a way to tamp down minority turnout -- which set a record during Barack Obama's successful 2008 presidential run.

It's unclear whether the dispute over South Carolina's voter ID law will be cleared up before the state's primary in June or the general election on Nov. 6, Wilson spokesman Mark Plowden said.

"We have no idea of knowing how long this matter will take to resolve," he said. "Obviously, we want the will of our state's voters to be recognized, and this law to be enacted."