WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration on Friday blocked a new South Carolina law that requires voters to show photo identification to vote because of concerns that it would hurt the ability of minorities to cast a ballot.
Republican Governor Nikki Haley in May signed into law a measure that says voters must show a driver's license, passport or military identification along with their voter registration card in order to vote.
Under the law, anyone who does not have a photo identification must obtain a new voter registration card that includes a photo. A birth certificate or passport can be used to prove identity.
The Justice Department said the requirement could harm the right to vote of tens of thousands of people, noting that just over one-third of the state's minorities who are registered voters did not have a driver's license needed to cast a ballot.
"The state's data demonstrate that non-white voters are both significantly burdened" by the law and "disproportionately unlikely to possess the most common types of photo identification" needed, Thomas Perez, head of the Justice Department's civil rights division, said in a letter to the state.
The state can appeal the decision at the Justice Department or in federal court.
Democrats called the law efforts at "voter suppression" against minorities who historically do not always have such identification cards. Republicans countered that their goal was to prevent voter fraud.
(Editing by Xavier Briand)
(Reporting By Jeremy Pelofsky)