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Thursday
Sep082011

State Voter ID Laws Draw National Scrutiny

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Department of Justice is reviewing, and has the power to reject, a controversial new law passed in South Carolina that requires a registered voter to present a government-issued photo ID before his or her vote is counted.

Gov. Nikki Haley signed the bill into law in May and she’s not alone.  Four other states have passed similar voter ID laws in 2011, including Wisconsin, Texas, Tennessee and Kansas.  But thanks to the DOJ, South Carolina’s law could still be rejected by federal officials.

And while other states have passed voter photo ID laws in the past, the laws passed in 2011 are by far the strictest with the exception of the law passed in 2005 by the state of Indiana.

Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act empowers the DOJ to review election laws passed in select southern states, as well as Alaska and some counties throughout the country.  Crafted in a time of great racial strife, the act was meant to codify the power of the 15th Amendment, which forbids racial discrimination at the polling booth.

South Carolina, which is subject to federal review, is the only state to have petitioned the Obama Justice Department for approval while other states such as Texas opted to clear their law through the D.C. District Court, which is also permitted.

Critics of a stricter photo ID law argue that the requirement will make it tougher for poor and minority voters to cast their ballot while proponents call it a common sense provision.

Voters without the means to produce correct documents or the disabled can verify their identity through an affidavit but many still see the ID requirements as too burdensome.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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