During a visit to Columbia Tuesday, the Rev. Al Sharpton said voter-ID laws, like one passed in South Carolina last year, would stunt the progress African-Americans have made since the civil rights movement.
The controversial law would require voters to show a government-issued identification to vote, which proponents say will prevent fraud. Critics say the law would prevent some African-American voters from casting ballots.
“Gov. (Nikki) Haley, you may have the Confederate flag in front of the capital, but this is not the Confederacy no more,” Sharpton told a crowd of more than 400 during a voting-rights rally at Columbia’s Drew Wellness Center.
“We are not going to be insulted. We know who we are. Since you want an ID, let me give you the ID. We are those that came from slavery. … Look at us now; we are the heads of corporations. We are the heads of state.”
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Sharpton, who held his syndicated radio and MSNBC talk shows in Columbia Tuesday, said S.C. voters should not avoid the polls out of fears about the voter-ID law since it was rejected by the U.S. Justice Department last year.
“The worst thing in the world that can happen is for it to be reported that with all the fighting to protect your right to vote in South Carolina, black turnout didn’t come out,” Sharpton said. “They need to be able to say: ‘That night, with all the games they played, blacks voted like they have never voted before.’ ”
Closing arguments were heard Monday before a panel of federal judges in South Carolina’s attempt to reverse the Justice Department’s decision.
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., called Sharpton’s comments “political theater.” Graham sent a letter to the Justice Department on Monday demanding to know why staff recommendations to uphold South Carolina’s voter-ID law were overruled.
“The reality is that we need to improve the integrity of the voting system,” Graham said. “I think I should stand up for my state when I think they’re doing something responsible.”
In a statement, Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, said: “As a racial minority, I find it both ironic and offensive that Al Sharpton is saying that minorities are somehow incapable of performing the simple task of getting their photo taken.”