COLUMBIA (WACH / AP) - A panel of three federal judges in Washington has upheld South Carolina's voter identification law, but says the state cannot put it in practice until 2013.
The judges say in their unanimous ruling that time is too short to put the law in effect ahead of the Nov. 6 elections.
South Carolina's political leaders are voiced their opinions to the court's decision to uphold the state's voter identification law Wednesday afternoon.
South Carolina's top prosecutor considers the decision a win for the state.
"Today's ruling by the three judge panel is a major victory for South Carolina and its election process. It affirms our voter ID law is valid and constitutional under the Voting Rights Act. The fact remains, voter ID laws do not discriminate or disenfranchise; they ensure integrity at the ballot box," said Attorney General Alan Wilson.
Meanwhile, opponents like South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian are disappointed in the decision.
"The South Carolina Democratic Party strongly disagrees with the court's opinion and is hopeful that the United States Supreme Court will resolve the differences between various Voter ID cases around the country," said Harpootlian.
The law was turned down twice by the U.S. Justice Department, once in December 2011 and once in July 2012, saying it could keep tens of thousands of the state's minorities from casting ballots.
Wilson says the federal court's decision "affirms South Carolina's voter ID law should have been pre-cleared by the U.S. Justice Department."
Harpootlian says it is fortunate that the law will not go into affect until after the 2012 election, and hopes voters will voice disapproval of the law on November 6.
Governor Nikki Haley voiced her satisfaction with the decision through social media.
"The Feds keep throwing punches but in South Carolina heels and boxing gloves prevail! This is another win for our state and country," said Haley in a post to her Facebook page.
Opponents have long argued that forcing voters to present a photo identification at the polls will disenfranchise mainly the elderly and minorities who may not have access to the proper identification. They also point out there is a great deal of confusion over when the law will go into effect and what voters will need in order to cast a ballot.
The State Election Commission is required to launch a voter education program about the law to keep South Carolinians informed.
When the law goes into effect, voters will have to present one of five forms of picture identification. A driver's license, another form of picture ID issued by the DMV, a passport, military ID issued by the federal government, or a voter registration card with are all approved forms of identification.
However, the three judge panel also ruled Wednesay that the law's"expansive â??reasonable impedimentâ?? provision" made it unlikely that voters without a photo ID would be turned away at the polls.
"If someone shows up without one of the five forms of ID that are allowed they can still sign a reasonable impediment affidavit which creates a paper trail. Anyone with the intent of defrauding or stealing a vote by in-person voter fraud at the polling place would be dissauded from doing so," ," said Attorney General Wilson. "Every single person who wants to vote on election day after this law is implemented will be allowed to vote, regardless."
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)