By Becci Robbins
SC Progressive Network Communications Director
Gov. Nikki Haley today signed into law a bill that will mandate people have a photo ID to vote.
The SC Progressive Network and other voting rights advocates have been fighting this unnecessary law for four years, arguing that it is a solution in search of a problem.
“This law will prevent thousands of South Carolinians from voting,” said Network Director Brett Bursey. “There is no evidence of anyone ever having pretended to be someone else at the polls. The clear intent of this law — passed by a Republican party-line vote — is to suppress the vote of poor people and minorities, who historically vote Democrat.”
“The people here celebrating the signing of this bill – Gov. Haley, Rep. Clemmons, Sen. Peeler – none of them have ever experienced the racial discrimination that kept many people in Orangeburg from voting,” said Rep. Bakari Sellers (D-Orangeburg). “Racial discrimination is not something from the distant past, and this bill insures it will happen in the immediate future.” Sellers’ father was shot during a protest against segregation in Orangeburg in 1968.
Members of the SC Legislative Black Caucus speak against the bill. More photos here.
The SC Election Commission found that 178,175 citizens have voter registration cards that do not have a state- issued photo ID. The top 15 counties, by percentage of voters without photo ID, all have a majority of minority population that historically vote Democrat. In Richland County alone, 18,865 voters do not have state-issued photo ID.
The Progressive Network will be gathering affidavits documenting the difficulties and expenses of those attempting to get photo IDs. These affidavits will be submitted to the US Justice Department as it considers whether the law disenfranchises minority voters. There is a 60-day window to present comments. Due to a history of racial discrimination, South Carolina must have all laws that affect voting rights “pre-cleared” by the US Justice Department.
While three other pre-clearance states (AZ, GA, LA) have gotten Justice Department approval for their photo ID laws, the laws in these states are not as restrictive as South Carolina’s. The other states allow voters to obtain photo IDs with documents ranging from tax forms to payment stubs.
“We are calling on people who don’t have photo IDs to begin the process of getting one now,” said Network Co-chair Virginia Sanders. “We need to document the difficulties and expenses within the next 60 days, so don’t wait until the next election time comes around.”
The Dept of Motor Vehicles requires a birth certificate, or other government-issued ID, in order to obtain a state-issued ID card. DHEC requires a state- or federal-issued photo ID to get a birth certificate.
“We are working with a group in Sumter County that has already found eight registered voters having serious difficulty getting a photo ID,” Sanders said. “Some don’t have a birth certificate and weren’t born in a hospital. Others are being told they will have to go to court to get their names changed if it was misspelled on their birth certificate. The legal hoops they have to jump through are expensive. This is, in effect, a poll tax.”
DHEC advises citizens they can go online to “VitalCheck” to get a copy of their birth certificate. To use this service, one has to have a computer, email address, phone number and one of four major credit cards. The average cost for this service is $30.
Anyone having difficulty in obtaining a photo ID should contact the SC Progressive Network at 803-808-3384 or firstname.lastname@example.org.