Democrats’ Legal Victory Expands Access to the ballot for one million South Carolinians
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairwoman Cheri Bustos, House Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn (SC-06), DSCC Chairwoman Catherine Cortez Masto and DCCC General Counsel Marc Elias discussed their victory over South Carolina’s unconstitutional voter registration restrictions after state officials agreed on Friday to drop their requirement that voters provide their full nine-digit Social Security number when registering to vote. The agreement comes after the DCCC and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, in partnership with the South Carolina Democratic Party, filed a lawsuit to eliminate the requirement – arguing that it unconstitutionally suppresses registration and voter participation, particularly for voters of color.
“This is an attempt by the DCCC, DSCC and hopefully others to make sure that people cast an unfettered vote and to make sure that people are not discouraged from voting. We ought to be making it easy to cast ballots,” said Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn (SC-06), who has served South Carolina in Congress since 1993 and is one of the longest serving African Americans in Congress. “My parents had trouble registering to vote and I remember some of the troubles they had. Those things and the vestiges of those things are still lingering throughout S.C. and throughout the South. This effort will help discourage these troubles.”
The parties have submitted a proposed consent order to the court that will:
- Instruct the county boards of election to accept paper voter registration applications that include only the last four digits of an applicant’s SSN and update their trainings accordingly, and
- Within 30 days of the order, the downloadable, paper registration form will be updated to reflect that applications containing only the last four digits of an applicant’s SSN will be accepted.
“This provision was wrong, unconstitutional, and a large part of why nearly one million eligible people in South Carolina remain unregistered to vote,” DCCC Chairwoman Cheri Bustos said. “The state is doing right by removing this unnecessary requirement. We have committed to use our resources to fight voter suppression tactics across the country. We will continue fighting laws that discourage people from making their voices heard.”
“With this victory, South Carolinians no longer have to choose between protecting their privacy and participating in our democracy,” said DSCC Chair Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto. “This settlement underscores how important it is for us to continue fighting unconstitutional policies that make it harder for voters to register and cast their ballots – and we will continue to the work to protect the integrity of our elections.”
Democrats are making an eight-figure commitment to fighting Republican voter suppression in battleground states across the country and have filed lawsuits in eight states — including North Carolina, Texas, Florida, and Georgia, Michigan, Arizona, and Minnesota. The South Carolina victory follows others in North Carolina, Michigan, and Florida.
“Democrats are leading a historic legal battle, filing more than a dozen targeted lawsuits to fight a real crisis in democracy, a tidal wave of Republican voter suppression efforts,” said DCCC General Counsel Marc Elias. “The scale of our legal strategy sends a clear signal that Democrats have committed significant resources to ending obvious suppression tactics and will put a check on arbitrary partisan advantage intentionally written into the law.“
Like South Carolina, in Michigan and Florida election officials and Republican-controlled legislatures have opted to come to the negotiating table rather than take cases fully through to litigation in court.
- After the DCCC launched a challenge to voter registration laws that disadvantage college students in Michigan, the Secretary of State came to the table to negotiate an agreement that the state will take steps to encourage student voter registration.
- In North Carolina, the committees successfully challenged Republicans’ decision to eliminate early voting on the final Saturday of the early voting period. Within days of filing the suit, the Republican-controlled North Carolina legislature reversed course and reinstated the early voting day they previously eliminated. In 2016, 193,138 voters cast ballots on the final Saturday of early voting – making it the busiest day of early voting that year. The North Carolinians who vote on this day are disproportionately African-American.
Last November, a federal judge in Florida ruled that Florida’s ballot order law was unconstitutional and provided an unfair advantage to members of the governor’s party. In their complaint, Democrats were able to prove ballot order rules that placed Republicans at the top of the ballot in every race, in every precinct in the state unfairly advantaged Republicans by as much as five percent. Democrats return to court seeking a resolution to that legal battle in February.
The DCCC and DSCC will continue challenging laws that suppress access to the ballot and create partisan disadvantages on the ballot in states across the country.