By Karen Brooks
(Reuters) - A civil rights group in Alabama targeted the state's voter identification law in a federal lawsuit filed on Wednesday, saying the requirement that a photo ID be shown at the polls in order to vote discriminated against minorities.
The lawsuit, filed by the Alabama State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Greater Birmingham Ministries, asked for a permanent injunction to stop the law, which took effect last year.
The lawsuit contended the law had disenfranchised some 280,000 voters and threatened hundreds of thousands more.
A disproportionate number of those voters are black and Hispanic, the lawsuit said.
"Indeed, the Photo ID Law is simply the latest chapter in Alabama's long and brutal history of intentional racial discrimination," the lawsuit said. "For five decades, Alabama's use of discriminatory voting schemes has necessitated repeated federal intervention."
The state attorney general's office declined to comment.
The lawsuit said the situation was made worse by the state's recent decision to sharply reduce access to driver's license and state ID offices in rural and minority areas.
Alabama's law was passed in 2011, part of a wave of voting restrictions enacted by Republican-controlled states in advance of the 2012 presidential election. Supporters have said voter ID laws are needed to prevent voter fraud.
Opponents have said voter fraud is rare and the rules are intended to deter voters including the poor, minorities and college students, from voting. Those groups are less likely to possess the necessary identification but are more likely to vote for Democratic candidates, critics said.
The laws have been the focus of legal action since their inception.
Last week, the NAACP asked a federal judge to halt the implementation of the law for North Carolina voters, set to take effect before the 2016 primaries.
In March, the U.S. Supreme Court, which has upheld the constitutionality of similar laws in the past, rejected a challenge to Wisconsin's law requiring a photo ID at the polls.
In August, a federal appeals court struck down a similar Texas law, saying it had "discriminatory effects."
(Reporting by Karen Brooks in Austin, Texas; Editing by Peter Cooney)