A South Carolina House committee Tuesday approved a bill that would require voters to show a photo ID in order to cast their vote in an election. The House Judiciary Committee approved the bill by a 13-7 vote along party lines.
H.3003 would require anyone voting to show either a driver’s license, passport, military ID, or a potentially new form of voter registration card that would feature a photo.
Republicans say the bill would cut down voter fraud. Democrats questioned whether it is even necessary.
During the committee meeting, Rep. Bakari Sellers (D-Bamberg) attacked the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Alan Clemmons (R-Horry), on that point.
Sellers took the lead among Democrats on the committee who verbally lashed out at the bill before the vote, spending over two hours questioning Clemmons on the specifics of the legislation.
Rep. Garry Smith (R-Greenville) defended Clemmons, saying there are reports of voter fraud, but prosecutors are hesitant to address them.
One of the disconnects seems to be that the complaints may be made to the local jurisdictions. Complaints may be made to SLED. But they very rarely get the Attorney General’s Office for one particular reason. They’re just so darn hard to prove.
Another issue was a section of the bill that requires all absentee ballots to be filed by paper only. That would eliminate in-person absentee voting, which allows people with an excuse to vote absentee on a machine (rather than by paper ballot) up to 30 days before an election. Rep. James Smith (D-Richland) said thousands of people would be hurt by the rule.
There are a lot of our constituents that do this, that have done this every year. I mean, hundreds and thousands of South Carolinians who, it is their practice to go by and vote in the county office in the weeks in advance of the election. If you vote for this, that is going to be taken away from them.
Clemmons said he does not think in-person absentee ballots are a good thing. Although he acknowledged many voters use it, he said it encourages people to abuse the system so they can get out of voting on Election Day.
Because it’s easier, I can just stop by the election office three weeks before the election and I can cast my ballot. There are allegations that people abuse the excuses, disregard the excuses, and pick one and check it off.
The bill would also require the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue free identification cards to anyone over 17 who does not have a drivers license. The DMV says it expects the changes to cost at least $725,000.
Democrats also attacked the bill for not having a known overall cost. Sellers accused Republicans of not living up to their “campaign rhetoric.” Rep. Walt McLeod (D-Newberry) criticized a program in the bill that would educate voters about the law’s changes, should it pass. He challenged Clemmons to show how much that program would cost.
The bill now heads to the House floor.
Also in the House:
–On second reading, the House unanimously passed H. 3286, which changes the state’s calculation formula to qualify for extended unemployment benefits. The current formula would allow South Carolina to qualify for the benefits by basing its average unemployment on the rates of the past two years. The new bill would go back three years. Rep. Kenny Bingham (R-Lexington) said the state would not be eligible for new extended benefits if the changes were not made.
The bill will likely move to the Senate after its third reading Wednesday.