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Nikki Haley calls herself 'white', kicks up a row

Last updated on: July 29, 2011 13:27 IST

Nikki Haley calls herself 'white', kicks up a row

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Democrats have accused North Carolina's Indian-American Governor Nikki Haley of listing her race as "white" in her voter registration form in 2001 and playing on it for political convenience.

Haley created history this year when she was sworn in as the first woman governor of North Carolina. She is also the first governor of Sikh heritage.

Haley, 39, is also the first Indian-American woman governor and only the second from the community to occupy this post.

The local Post and Courier reported that the state Democratic Party, which first obtained the public record in this regard, is challenging whether her inconsistency on the card might have made her ineligible to vote under the state's new voter ID law.


Image: Nikki Haley
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com
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State Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian said whether Haley listed her race as white or not doesn't really matter to him, but the issue is that the governor has shown a pattern of such actions.

"Haley has been appearing on television interviews where she calls herself a minority -- when it suits her," Harpootlian was quoted as saying.

"When she registers to vote she says she is white. She has developed a pattern of saying whatever is beneficial to her at the moment," he said. "She can't even tell the truth about her racial heritage."

There was no immediate response from Haley's office.


Image: Nikki Haley with her husband Michael Haley and children Rena and Nalin
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com
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The state Election Commission gives people the choice of declaring their race as white, black/African-American, Asian, Hispanic, Native American or other, the agency's spokesman Chris Whitmire said.

The commission doesn't attempt to verify a person's race, but that data is used by the Justice Department to enforce fair voting practices.

Collecting the information is a requirement of state law, Whitmire told the daily. If a person checks "other", he or she is asked to specify.

Whitmire said he knows of no state election law, nor a definition by the state Election Commission, for the term "white."

The Post and Courier said that by making such allegations, the South Carolina Democratic Party tried to make Haley out as a liar for checking "white" as her race on her 2001 Lexington County voter registration application. But the application had no specific option for "Indian."


Image: Nikki Haley
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com
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Her options were "white, black/African-American, Asian, Hispanic, Native American or other."

Haley's voter registration card, first obtained by the Democratic Party, is a matter of public record. The 2001 card was the only one on file in the Lexington County voter registration office, according to the party.

The voter registration office in her home county of Bamberg did not have an application on file for her, the daily said.

"It is not clear if Haley had declared her race differently on any earlier voter registration applications," it said.

Haley's parents emigrated from India and she was born in Bamberg County in South Carolina, a county split between whites and blacks.


Image: Nikki Haley
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com
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