Justice Department blocks South Carolina's voter identification law

The Department of Justice blocked South Carolina's controversial new voter identification law Friday afternoon, arguing it intentionally discriminates against minority voters.

South Carolina is one of eight states required by the Voting Rights Act to get federal approval for any new voting laws, giving DOJ the power to block it.

The law would require all voters to present photo identification at the ballot box. Conservatives say the laws are meant to protect against voter fraud.

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Civil-rights groups and Democrats argue the law and others like it that have cropped up nationally intentionally seek to depress turnout from minorities, young voters and the elderly who are less likely to have those forms of identification — and help Republicans in the process.

The issue could inflame partisan and racial tensions ahead of South Carolina's Republican presidential primary, set for Jan. 21.  Some conservatives have attacked the DOJ for blocking state laws on illegal immigration, and this is likely to increase their criticisms.

Wisconsin, Mississippi, Texas, Kansas, Alabama, Rhode Island and Tennessee have passed similar laws in recent month.