Back to South Carolina, to see where we are on the voter suppression law. The story so far:
officials in South Carolina, facing resistance from the Department of Justice to their new voter ID law, concocted a ghoulish tale of dead voters taking over the state’s elections. As was suspected from the beginning, the fevered stories of “zombie voters” turned out to be fantasy. So the question is, how did this cheap B-movie fiction make it into the public debate in the first place?
We’ve covered the South Carolina/Fox News dead voter hoax before, and this cheap B-movie fiction made it into the public debate because the attorney general of South Carolina (and son of Joe ”you lie!” Wilson) and the news personalities at Fox made sure to put it there.
So the federal government had the audacity and unprecedented arrogance to attempt to enforce the Voting Rights Act, and South Carolina sued:
South Carolina filed a lawsuit on Tuesday, seeking to overturn the Justice Department’s decision to block the state from requiring voters to show government-issued photo identification.
This is part of a scheduling order from a federal court on the South Carolina lawsuit, yesterday:
STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, and
ERIC HIMPTON HOLDER, JR., in his
official capacity as Attorney General of the
JAMES DUBOSE, et al.,
Concurring Statement of Judge Bates, in which Judge Kollar-Kotelly joins:
I concur in the scheduling order issued by the Court, but write separately to express my concerns about the course this litigation has taken to date. Act R54 was signed into law on May 18, 2011. South Carolina waited six weeks before submitting Act R54 to the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) for administrative preclearance. The DOJ then spent several months prompting South Carolina to supplement its “manifestly incomplete” preclearance submission and to provide basic details about how Act R54 would be implemented.
On December 23, 2011, the DOJ denied preclearance to section 5 of the Act, but declined to make any preclearance decision on sections 4, 7 and 8 because South Carolina had not – despite repeated requests – submitted final versions of the implementing procedures for any of those sections.
South Carolina took no further action for another almost seven weeks. On February 8, 2012, South Carolina filed this lawsuit. The complaint did not, in any way, mention a need for expedition. After six weeks of silence from the parties, the Court sua sponte entered an order on March 21, 2012 scheduling a status conference for shortly after the due date of an answer.
The Court’s order directed the parties to confer on scheduling issues and propose a schedule. Accordingly, on March 28, defendants sent South Carolina a letter proposing a time for a meeting, attaching a draft schedule, and inquiring about several issues related to electronic discovery. When the parties met the following week, however, South Carolina was unprepared to answer the questions in defendants’ letter or to propose a specific schedule. South Carolina also did not bring information technology experts to the meeting to discuss the electronic discovery issues that have plagued similar litigation, despite defendants’ specific request that it do so. After the parties’ meeting, on April 9, defendants sent South Carolina a detailed letter asking reasonable questions about various substantive and discovery issues that were relevant to scheduling. South Carolina apparently ignored that letter….
On April 13, 2012, the parties appeared before the panel to discuss their proposed schedules. South Carolina was unable to answer several of the Court’s questions, including basic questions about Act R54 and South Carolina’s proposed timeline for this litigation. South Carolina could not explain why expedition was suddenly required, despite its previous leisurely pursuit of preclearance and its failure to seek any expedition in the instant lawsuit for nearly two months….
I note, however, that South Carolina’s own inexplicably dilatory conduct has largely created the difficult situation the Court and the parties now face, and I am uncomfortable with the proposition that state sovereignty functions as some sort of talisman that causes a court automatically to expedite a case.
South Carolina has conceded that whether its expedited schedule proves achievable depends to a large extent on its own conduct and whether it can comply with the schedule it has urged. And it has pledged “to move with lightning speed” and to avoid “engaging in . . . dragged out discovery disputes….”
Even if South Carolina does adhere to the proposed schedule, meeting the early September deadline risks imposing certain burdens on defendants, and the 178,000 affected voters in South Carolina. But on the assumption that South Carolina will do everything it can to minimize those costs, I join the Court’s scheduling order.
The 178,000 living, breathing affected voters in South Carolina! There they are! Living voters finally make an appearance in the last paragraph of a scheduling order. And that’s how we ended up risking “certain burdens” being imposed on tens of thousands of affected voters in South Carolina. Of course, very few of the targeted voters or really any of the people in that state have any idea that any of this is going on. Maybe they’ll find out sometime in September, when South Carolina begins any “leisurely” or “dilatory” effort to let them know if the voting rules have changed, relying on the assumption that South Carolina will do everything it can to minimize “those costs”, of course.