State lawmakers continue to debate voter indentification legislation that would require a person to produce a government-issued photo ID like a driver’s license in order to vote. The debate has been largely divided by party affiliation with Republicans saying that the legislation would protect the security of the voting process and largely eliminate fraud, while Democrats call it an attempt to disenfranchise thousands of voters. Appearing on SCETV’s “This Week in the House” Tuesday, Horry County Republican Alan Clemmons says the measure as it is now structured would be considered constitutional.
“The Supreme Court has upheld requiring a picture ID to be constitutional. They have done that in just the last few years as a matter of fact, so the gate is open, the opportunity is there to secure the ballot through Voter ID,” says Clemmons.
Bamberg County Democrat Bakari Sellers says he believes the bill as it now stands would be struck down by the U.S. Department of Justice. “As many people know we are one of 16 states that fall under Voting Rights Act of the 1960’s and I think everything we pass (on voting) has to go in front of the Department of Justice and I’m not sure that this piece of legislation will stand that muster. Only time will tell, but if I were a betting man I would say that it wouldn’t.”
Sellers says he is concerned that the bill, if signed into law, would automatically disenfranchise thousandsof voters in South Carolina. He is especially concerned that the elderly and college age state citizens would find if difficult to exercise their constitutional right to vote. Sellers mentioned one example of a constituent concerned about obtaining an ID for her elderly father. “Her father is a veteran of our military, but he doesn’t have a birth certificate anymore. He couldn’t find it. He’s elderly. I spoke with persons at the DMV and they say that happens a lot. We have to deal with that issue. We also have college students who are residents of various areas in the state who have college IDs and we want to make sure they have the freedom to vote. They are permanent residents of the state and I think that’s an issue we have to look at.”
Sellers says a voter ID bill must contain language that would allow a person to use other forms of photo identification that are not issued by the federal or state government.
House Speaker Bobby Harrell voiced his concerns of possible fraud if forms of ID not issued by the state or federal government were allowed to be used at the polls. “When you start broadening beyond the things issued by the state or federal government, if fraud is going to exist, the opportunity to have those things produced with somebody showing it as a small college South Carolina ID that people aren’t familiar with at all it’s dangerous if the idea is security.”
Sellers argued that proponents of the bill have yet to satisfy the burden of proof that such legislation is necessary because they have not brought forth any examples of widespread voter fraud under the present system.