Civil-rights groups claim this Justice offensive is needed to counteract a voting environment in which little has changed since Jim Crow. But South Carolina’s law, like Indiana’s and Georgia’s, explicitly addresses potential disenfranchisement by offering state-issued IDs free of charge. When civil-rights groups fretted about the ability of minority voters to get to the local Department of Motor Vehicles to pick up a free state-issued ID card, Governor Haley created an 800 number to offer free rides to anyone who couldn’t afford the transportation. About 30 people called.
In October, the South Carolina Department of Elections reported that some 240,000 state voters lacked ID cards. The DMV now says more than 200,000 of those had allowed their IDs to expire, lived in other states or were dead.
The Voting Rights Act was once needed to counteract the gap between black and white voter registration. By 2009 the gap had narrowed to a few percentage points in some covered states while blacks out-registered whites in others. Yet Justice retains a federal veto on election-law changes no matter how innocuous or racially neutral. Section 5 has become a vehicle not to pursue equal access to the polls but to play the grossest kind of racial politics.