The South Carolina House of Representatives passed a controversial bill Wednesday that would require voters to show a photo ID in order to cast their ballots in an election.
The House approved the bill on second reading by a 74-45 vote that fell along party lines. Republicans say the bill will help stop vote fraud. Democrats say it disenfranchises the poor and elderly.
The bill would require the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue free IDs for anyone who does not currently have a drivers license. That requirement would be phased out after five years.
House Speaker Bobby Harrell praised the bill’s passage in a statement. He said it will help “secure the state’s elections.”
A picture ID is required to do just about anything in our society, except to vote. Unlike most things in our society, our system of securing elections has not kept up with changing technology.
Many African-American legislators said they feel the new rules are an attack against them. Rep. Chris Hart (D-Richland) questioned the bill’s timing, saying Republicans didn’t make voting reform an issue until after massive voter turnout in the 2008 election that put President Barack Obama into the White House.
David Weeks (D-Sumter) said he had major problems with the bill.
If you don’t look the way somebody says you should look on your ID card, then your vote is subject to be challenged. Then you have to come back a second time and prove that you are who you are.
The bill would allow those whose identity was challenged to cast a provisional ballot, which would not count until the person later proves their identity to a local elections official.
Rep. Bakari Sellers (D-Bamberg) attacked the bill from a fiscal standpoint, saying the state does not have the money to give free identification cards to citizens.
The bill would also crack down on absentee ballots. Among the proposed changes is the elimination of in-person absentee voting, which is when absentee voters cast their ballot on a machine at an election office (rather than by paper ballot) up to 30 days before an election.
Rep. David Mack (D-Charleston) said the new rules would effectively disenfranchise some seniors, who often don’t have drivers licenses.
And if some of you think this is only going to hurt black and brown people, you’re wrong. There’s people in nursing homes of different colors, of different political backgrounds… there’s people that are disabled, that are going to suffer with this.
He questioned why the bill was even necessary.
The House passed a similar bill last year that Senate Democrats stopped. However, lawmakers compromised at the time by adding a 15-day early voting period before an election. The current House version does not include an early voting period. However, a Senate bill currently in committee would feature it.