The NAACP, among several leading civil and voting rights groups that intervened in the case against the South Carolina law, portrayed the ruling as a “partial victory” because it blocks the law from being used next month, when President Barack Obama will seek re-election.
“As we celebrate this small victory, we still must understand that the law, as written, has the potential to disenfranchise thousands of voters in future elections,” Jotaka Eaddy, head of the NAACP’s voting rights initiative, said in a statement.
The three judges who ruled on the South Carolina law included two appointees of Republican President George W. Bush and one appointee of Democratic President Bill Clinton. The Clinton appointee, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, in addition to joining the majority ruling, wrote a separate concurring opinion explaining her support for the law.
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson hailed the ruling as a vindication of Republican state legislators, whom the law’s foes accused of promoting the legislation in order to suppress the votes of African-Americans in South Carolina.
“The fact remains, voter ID laws do not discriminate or disenfranchise,” Wilson said. “They ensure integrity at the ballot box.”
In a dig at Obama administration civil rights lawyers, Wilson added: “This ruling also affirms South Carolina’s voter ID law should have been pre-cleared by the U.S. Justice Department.”
But one of the two Bush appointees who joined Wednesday’s ruling, Judge John Bates, defended Holder’s original decision to reject the law and noted that state election officials had modified it substantially during the subsequent federal trial.
“It is understandable that the attorney general of the United States, and then the intervenor-defendants in this case, would raise serious concerns about South Carolina’s voter photo ID law as it then stood,” Bates wrote in a separate concurring opinion.
Dick Harpootlian, chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, expressed disappointment with the decision.
“The South Carolina Democratic Party strongly disagrees with the court’s opinion and is hopeful that the United States Supreme Court will resolve the differences between the various voter ID cases around the country,” Harpootlian said in a statement.
While a number of state voter ID laws have faced legal challenges, the South Carolina and Texas cases claim a high profile because the two states are subject to the restrictions of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Under the Voting Rights Act, all appeals of U.S. district court rulings bypass the federal appellate courts and go directly to the Supreme Court. Texas has filed an appeal with the high court, and the major civil rights and voting groups that oppose South Carolina’s law may do the same.