Several organizations including AARP, NAACP, and the League of Women Voters joined with a number of lawmakers in front of the State House Wednesday to convey their opposition to a bill requiring voters in the state to present photo identification at the polls. A Senate panel is set to debate the bill Thursday. The House approved the measure last month much to the chagrin of the Legislative Black Caucus, whose members staged a walkout after the vote to approve the measure was taken.
Legislative Black Caucus Chairman Sumter County Representative David Weeks says the bill is a ploy by Republicans toward voter suppression. Weeks says several officials agree that there is no logical need for the bill.
“I’ve met with members of the South Carolina registration and election officials, the groups that are responsible for conducting the elections within the state of South Carolina in every county. That group went on record unanimously as opposing the Photo ID bill for one reason, because this is not a problem in the state of South Carolina.” Weeks says if the bill passes the Senate he and others are prepared to test its constitutionality in court.
Common Cause/ South Carolina Executive Director John Crangle says the measure has an evil purpose to it and would lead to a huge waste in resources. “This is clearly an effort by Republican lawmakers to supress black voters in the state of South Carolina. Beyond that it would cost the state of South Carolina at least a million dollars in lost revenue because they propose to give away non-driver photo ID’s free. in addition the case will be litigated and could very well cost the state $500-thousand to $600-thousand to defend the lawsuit.”
Republicans have argued that the bill focuses on the issue of voter integrity. Democrats counter that it would deter poor, disabled, and elderly voters from going to the polls.
Charleston area League of Women Voters co-chair Mary Horres says her organization is calling on lawmakers to hold hearings around the state on the bill so that the people can truly be heard. Horres says such a move would make the process of voting more time consuming and inconvenient. “It would require poll workers to check the photograph and signature of each voter and certify that they are the person they see in that photograph. This process would add time at the polls, it would increase
the crowds and discourage all qualified voters from voting.”
The State Election Commission points out that 343-thousand registered voters in South Carolina don’t have a driver’s license or state ID card. The bill requires voters to present a valid driver’s license, passport, military ID, or state ID card at the polls before being allowed to vote.
South Carolina NAACP President Lonnie Randolph says the state of South Carolina has an obsession with being “last in everything that is first and first in everything that is last.” Randolph says the bill would cause the state’s consistently poor voter turnout to drop even further. “There is no reason in the world why South Carolina ranks 42nd in the nation in voter participation. With the Voter ID bill that is inclined to suppress the vote and prevent the poor, the needy from participating in the process that 42 number could possibly increase to number 50.”