The author of South Carolina’s voter ID law admitted Tuesday to a “poorly considered” encouraging response to a supporter’s racist email.
According to McClatchy Newspapers, state Rep. Alan Clemmons (R) admitted to writing “Amen … thank you for your support” to an email from a supporter defending the law by saying that if the state legislature offered a reward for carrying identification, “it would be like a swarm of bees going after a watermelon,” invoking a longtime stereotype about black people.
Clemmons’ testimony was part of the second day of hearings in a suit the state filed against the U.S. Justice Department after it blocked the law, which went into effect last year and requires voters to show one of five possible forms of identification: a driver’s license, a passport, a military or DMV-issued photo ID, or a voter registration card with photo issued by a local elections office. The Justice Department said last year the law would “reduce minority voting strength across the state.” The state sued Attorney General Eric Holder in retaliation.
Think Progress reports that state officials have not been able to show evidence of in-person voter registration fraud, and that they have conceded that someone determined to commit fraud would not be deterred by the new ID law.
Clemmons denied distributing peanut packets with cards reading, “Stop Obama’s nutty agenda and support voter ID,” though attorney Garrard Beeney, representing a group of civil rights organizations who have joined the trial, said Clemmons had testified to doing that in June. Peanuts and racial implications came back to the forefront Tuesday during the Republican National Convention, after it was revealed that at least one attendee threw peanuts at a black CNN camerawoman while saying, “This is how we feed animals.”
State elections director Marci Andino said that even if the law goes into effect before the general election on Nov. 6, voters without an ID may still cast a ballot by signing an affidavit saying they had a “reasonable” impediment to getting it.
“Err on the side of the voter,” Andino said. “If there’s any doubt, then the voter should be permitted to vote.”
Video of Clemmons discussing the law last year can be seen below.