NAACP President Predicts South Carolina Voter ID Law Will Fail

Ben Jealous, the head of the civil rights organization, believes the Justice Department’s move to block the new law will stand.

Posted: 01/19/2012 06:19 PM EST

Ben Jealous, the president of the NAACP, said it is unlikely the South Carolina law requiring voters to present government-issued photo identification at the polls will remain in place, saying that it clearly discriminates against elderly and African-Americans.

In an interview with BET.com, Jealous said if the issue goes to the United States Supreme Court opponents of the law will prevail.

“I feel confident that we will be successful in blocking this law in South Carolina,” said Jealous, who has made opposition to voter identification laws a central effort of the civil rights organization. “And if the Supreme Court has to decide it, I don’t see the state of South Carolina getting the five votes that they would need.”

The United States Justice Department refused to grant the needed approval of the South Carolina law, saying the law would disproportionately diminish turnout among eligible minority voters.

Thomas E. Perez, the assistant attorney for civil rights, said that allowing the new requirement to go into effect would have “significant racial disparities.” 

Furthermore, in a letter to the South Carolina government, Perez said that data provided by the state of South Carolina indicated there were “81,938 minority citizens who are already registered to vote and who lack” government-issued identification.

The Justice Department official said that these voters are nearly 20 percent more likely to be “disenfranchised” than white voters.

South Carolina’s governor, Nikki Haley, sharply criticized the Justice Department’s move, saying that the Obama administration was “bullying” the state.

Jealous, who led a rally against the South Carolina law on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, said that public awareness and concern has increased regarding recent efforts by Republican-led legislatures and governors to enact voter identification laws.

“My sense is that the tide is turning,” Jealous said. “People are getting increasingly focused and engaged in the battle to make sure that voting rights attacks are being fought. In South Carolina, just like everywhere, people who are in the minority have rights, too.”

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