Suzanne Gamboa, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — A panel of three federal judges upheld a South Carolina law requiring voters to show photo identification, but delayed enforcement until next year, in a decision announced Wednesday, less than a month before this year's presidential election.
In a unanimous ruling, the judges said there was no discriminatory intent behind the law, ruling that it would not diminish African-Americans' voting rights because people who face a "reasonable impediment" to getting an acceptable photo ID can still vote if they sign an affidavit.
The judge declined to let the law take effect immediately, "given the short time left before the 2012 elections and given the numerous steps necessary to properly implement the law ... and ensure that the law would not have discriminatory" effects.
South Carolina voters who now lack the proper photo ID are disproportionately African-American, so proper and smooth functioning of the law "would be vital to avoid unlawfully racially discriminatory effects," according to the decision, written by Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. "There is too much of a risk to African-American voters for us to roll the dice," he said.
South Carolina is one of 16 states, mostly in the South, where election laws are subject to Justice Department approval under the federal Voting Rights Act because of a history of discrimination. South Carolina's was the first law to be refused federal OK in nearly 20 years, which led state officials to challenge that decision in federal court.
The state's Republican-controlled Legislature pushed the law through last year despite heavy opposition from African-American lawmakers. GOP Gov. Nikki Haley signed it last December.
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