COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina Democrats on Thursday seized on a 10-year-old voter registration document for Gov. Nikki Haley to claim the Republican uses her Indian-American heritage when it's convenient because it lists her race as "W'' for white.
Haley was elected the state's first female governor in November and the nation's second Indian-American chief executive.
Her parents emigrated from India and Haley was born in Bamberg County, S.C., a county split between whites and blacks. Born Nimrata Randhawa, she frequently credits her different heritage with helping her get beyond race and finding problems that many have in common.
South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian said the 2001 document the party unearthed shows the 39-year-old Haley plays on her race for political convenience.
"She can't even tell the truth about her racial heritage," Harpootlian said.
Haley spokesman Trey Walker said the governor's office did not plan to respond to the Democrats. State Republican Party Executive Director Matt Moore called Harpootlian's criticism "just more theatrics and that's all there is to it."
Haley's voter registration application was derived from information she supplied when obtaining a driver's license in 2001. It was not clear when that information may have been provided and by whom, or what options were even available on the form for racial identifiers when it was given.
South Carolina's current driver's license application asks people to identify their race as white, black, Asian or Indian.
The voter application Haley signed in March 2001 first was obtained by Democrats. The Associated Press independently viewed a copy Thursday provided by the Lexington County Commission of Registration and Elections.
State Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire said so-called motor voter forms have much of their information filled out automatically at Department of Motor Vehicle offices using driver's license information already on file.
Nearly all of the information on Haley's 2001 application was automatically filled out. The only handwriting on the form is her signature and the date.
A state agency spokesman said privacy laws prohibit the release of Haley's driver's license application. It's unclear how she may have identified herself when getting it renewed.
Whitmire and Dean Crepes, the Lexington voter registration and election director, said people can list anything they want for race on voter forms.
Whitmire said race information is important because it helps the state gather statistical data that is used to show whether the state is complying with the federal Voting Rights Act and not discriminating against voters.