To get a photo ID, residents must have a valid Social Security card; an official birth certificate or U.S. citizenship documents; and two proofs of residency, such as a utility bill or tax records.
That same week, a federal appeals court sided with the Obama campaign and Democrats in their lawsuit against Ohio over a restriction the state had placed on early voting.
Obama's campaign, the Democratic National Committee, and the Ohio Democratic Party filed suit in July over the restriction, which would have closed early in-person voting at the end of the day on the Friday before the election for all voters except those covered by a federal voting law. The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voter Act required the state to maintain early voting for members of the military, their family members, and U.S. citizens living outside the country.
However, a federal court panel in Washington on Wednesday ruled in favor of South Carolina's voter photo ID law, but said it cannot go into effect until next year because there's too little time to implement it for this November's election.
The three-judge panel said South Carolina's law does not discriminate against racial minorities as the Justice Department and other opponents had argued.
Clarity and confusion
The flurry of laws and subsequent legal decisions could not only confuse voters but also poll workers who may be unclear on the changes, said Myrna Pérez, a senior counsel at NYU's Brennan Center for Justice. As a result, she said, the very rulings meant to prevent disenfranchisement could create a climate in which poll workers unwittingly do exactly that.
"When you have laws changing so close to the election there's going to be confusion and misunderstanding of applications," Perez said. "It doesn't help with the fact that election officials are at the busiest time of their year. As a country, our election offices are under-resourced and not given the kinds of support they need and our poll workers ... frequently don't receive the kind of training they need.
"It's a very real possibility that poll workers are going to be confused about the state of certain laws and that confusion could make it more difficult for eligible Americans to participate," she added.
An 'opportunity for local elections to be ... stolen'
Lawmakers who have crafted some of the nation's toughest voter identification laws reject the notion that they are disenfranchising minorities.
Florida state representative Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala), chief sponsor of that state's voter identification law legislation, says he is not suppressing the votes of African Americans and Latinos. He disagrees that the intent of the new law is anything more than his effort to prevent voter fraud.
"One of the things, I think, that was really going wrong was the opportunity for local elections to be displaced or stolen, by just people coming in and moving their address," Baxley says in the CNN documentary.
But some still see the matter as a racial issue.
Attorney General Eric Holder and first lady Michelle Obama weighed in last month on voting rights at the Congressional Black Caucus Gala. Holder said voting rights are more than a partisan issue, while Obama recalled the pains many withstood in the civil rights struggle. The right to cast a ballot, she said, is significant, important, and should be protected.
Though Obama did not specifically address voting laws, she stressed the importance of registering people to vote, calling it "the movement of our era."
"We cannot let anyone discourage us from casting our ballots," Obama said. "We cannot let anyone make us feel unwelcome in the voting booth. It is up to us to make sure that in every election, every voice is heard and every vote is counted."
Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, a civil rights icon who was a close confidant to Dr. Martin Luther King and was beaten over his efforts to help end racial segregation and ensure voting rights for blacks, was more blunt.
"I'm really shocked. For me it is unreal. It is unbelievable," Lewis told CNN last month. "It may not be the literacy test or counting jelly beans in a jar. People aren't being beaten or chased by police dogs, but it takes us back to another day and another period and as Americans we should not want to even dream about the past."