Justice Dep't Requires Photo ID to Cover Media Event

By Elizabeth Harrington | October 16, 2012 | 3:10 PM EDT

Attorney General Eric Holder testifying in the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 12, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

(CNSNews.com) – A security officer outside the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) said showing a photo ID for admittance was standard operating procedure, something “required to enter the building,” and deferred questions about the policy to the Public Affairs Office. The DOJ in general, however, has been hostile to the use of ID laws for voters, claiming in some cases that the requirement of an ID is discriminatory.

On Tuesday, when CNSNews.com approached the visitor entrance to attend a press conference at DOJ headquarters, located on the 900 block of Constitution Avenue in D.C., the security guard immediately requested a government-issued photo ID.

“Do you have an ID?” he said.

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“A photo ID?” CNSNews.com asked.  “Why do I have to show you a photo ID?”  (This reporter and cameraman have official, congressional news media press credentials, which include photos, as well as state-issued driver’s licenses with photos, the latter which were shown to the security guard.)

“Well, because it’s required to enter the building,” the officer said.

CNSNews.com then asked, “What if I didn’t have an ID?”

“Then we’d have to run a check on you real quick,” the guard said.

“So, journalists without a photo ID, are they denied their First Amendment rights?” CNSNews.com asked.

“Any questions like that you need to ask our public affairs officer,” he said.

(AP Photo)

Attorney General Eric Holder has adamantly opposed requiring a photo ID in order to vote, saying such  laws would be “harmful to minority voters.”

Holder compared the photo ID requirement to the racist Jim Crow laws that were intended to prevent African Americans from casting a ballot.

“Let me be clear: We will not allow political pretexts to disenfranchise American citizens of their most precious rights,” Holder said in July at an NAACP conference in Houston, Texas.

“Under the proposed law [in Texas], concealed handgun licenses would be acceptable forms of photo ID but student IDs would not,” Holder said.  “Many of those without IDs would have to travel great distances to get them and many of them would struggle to pay for the documents they might need to obtain them. We call those poll taxes.”

CNSNews.com attended an event on Tuesday at the Justice Department to observe October as Disability Employment Awareness Month.

“All media must present government-issued photo ID (such as driver's license) as well as valid media credentials,” said the press announcement from the Justice Department.

On a related note, the state of South Carolina passed a Voter ID law (Act R54) last year, which under the federal Voting Rights Act it submitted to the Justice Department for pre-clearance. The DOJ denied the pre-clearance and South Carolina filed a lawsuit challenging the DOJ's determination. The D.C. District Court ruled in South Carolina's favor.

In an Oct. 12, 2012  letter to Attorney General Holder, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) explained the court ruling and urged the DOJ to not challenge the Voter ID law any further.

They wrote: "In conclusion, we request that you respect South Carolina law and not challenge the unanimous decision of the Court.  Act R54 does not have a discriminatory effect on any class of voters, but instead serves to protect each vote cast.  The pre-clearance takes effect beginning in the 2013 election cycle.  This provides ample time for South Carolina voters to obtain qualifying voter ID.

"South Carolina passed a Voter ID bill; complied with federal law by submitting it for pre-clearance; and was ultimately vindicated by the October 10 ruling.  Yesterday’s ruling should not be challenged.

"We look forward to your timely response.  Thank you."