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The Justice Department blocked a South Carolina law that would require voters present photo I.D., saying it would discriminate against minority voters, weighing in today for the first time on one of several new state laws seeking to combat voter fraud. Several state legislatures, mostly led by Republicans, have passed laws like this one saying they need to prevent fraudulent voting, but critics say the laws have the effect of burdening minority and other (surprise, typically Democratic) voters in what's likely to be a close election year. Under the 1965 Voting Rights Act some states need "pre-clearance" from the federal government to pass voter-identification laws so the Justice Department's Civil Rights division can decide whether the laws affect minorities' "political power," explains The Washington PostAttorney General Eric Holder has already spoken out against the laws, and he says he's going about evaluating them in an "apolitical" way, but The Post reports this is only likely to "heighten political tensions," with parties dividing along predictable lines.

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