COLUMBIA, S.C. — The Justice Department on Friday rejected South Carolina's law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls, saying it makes it harder for minorities to cast ballots. It was the first voter ID law to be refused by the federal agency in nearly 20 years.
The Obama administration said South Carolina's law didn't meet the burden under the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which outlawed discriminatory practices preventing blacks from voting.
Tens of thousands of minorities in South Carolina might not be able to cast ballots under South Carolina's law because they don't have the right photo ID, Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez said.
South Carolina's law was passed by a Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by GOP Gov. Nikki Haley.
The state's attorney general vowed to fight the federal agency in court.
"Nothing in this act stops people from voting," said Attorney General Alan Wilson, who is also a Republican.
South Carolina's new voter ID law requires voters to show poll workers a state-issued driver's license or ID card; a U.S. military ID; or a U.S. passport.
South Carolina is among five states that passed laws this year requiring some form of identification at the polls, while such laws were on the books in Indiana and Georgia.
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.
It is one of nine states that require the agency's approval.
The last time the Justice Department rejected a voter ID law was in 1994 when Louisiana passed a measure requiring a picture ID. After changes were made, it was approved by the agency.