The U.S. Justice Department and lawyers for South Carolina spent months fighting over the merits of the state’s controversial voter identification initiative. Now, the attorneys are debating which side the won the case in federal district court in Washington.

Lawyers for South Carolina want the federal government to cough up tens of thousands of dollars in transcript and copy costs for the state’s victory in fighting the Justice Department over a new voter photo identification requirement — one that drew the ire of civil rights proponents. The total bill: nearly $90,400.

But DOJ told South Carolina on November 30: Not so fast. The government’s legal team said in papers filed in U.S. District Court in Washington that because neither side fully won the case, the state and DOJ should each bear their own costs.

Even if South Carolina can be deemed the winning party, DOJ lawyers said, the state billed for items that are not taxable under federal law or local court rules. For instance, the state claimed costs of $5,090 for electronic hyperlinking of exhibits.

The government also argued that South Carolina shouldn’t be awarded costs for expedited transcription fees. DOJ took a shot at the state, saying that South Carolina’s “dilatory conduct” necessitated the fast pace of the litigation.

A lawyer for South Carolina, Bancroft partner H. Christopher Bartolomucci in Washington, declined to comment on the dispute.

In October, a three-judge panel — Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, sitting with U.S. district judges Colleen Kollar-Kotelly and John Bates — blocked South Carolina’s effort to implement its voter identification law for this year’s election. The panel, however, found the law doesn’t discriminate against minorities and said it could be put into place for 2013 and beyond.

“The law precleared by this court is not the strict photo voter ID statute initially enacted by the South Carolina General Assembly and submitted for preclearance to the Attorney General,” DOJ’s Bradley Heard of the Civil Rights Division said in court papers opposing South Carolina’s bill of costs.

South Carolina, Heard said, “refashioned” the law through a series of “concessions, reinterpretations and strategic retreats made during the course of litigation and trial.”

Heard said the government’s defense of the lawsuit “resulted in a photo voter identification law significantly more favorable to all South Carolina voters.”

South Carolina’s lawyers have until December 7 to respond to the DOJ position.

Contact Mike Scarcella at mscarcella@alm.com.