Senators Wednesday chose to send the contentious voter ID bill into conference committee. The House wants law that requires state photo ID’s only. Many in the upper chamber say they have worked out a better version, with expansions of early voting and a severability clause. That clause, according to Sen. Mike Rose, “should be restored to prevent the entire Bill being invalidated by a court merely because one portion of the Bill eventually is deemed by a court to be unconstitutional.”
In the past session, the bill stalled over many of the same issues. This session, House GOP members are clearly frustrated with the Senate’s inability-or unwillingness— to break a filibuster to pass what they have dubbed a “clean” version of the bill.
A group of senior senators put this statement in the record:
Concurring in the House Bill would be a political victory for politicians and a loss to voters at home who expected Voter ID. The Bill passed by the House was not a pure Voter ID Bill as represented by House members, and contained flawed language. Some examples are: a new law on poll watcher locations, unsure language on the HAVA law, no severability language, excluded police and government ID’s, deleted residency evidence for use in challenged ballots, and other language concerns.
By going to conference, we believe that we have the chance to eliminate the flaws and strengthen the Bill so that it can meet any court challenges ahead and serve the best interests of this State. The politically easy thing to do would have been to simply accept the House language. However, the responsible thing to do was to fix it so that it would not fail in the courts, or get tripped up by the Voting Rights Act. Haste would have made waste and we will get the Voter ID Bill rightly in law. Nonconcurrence was the way to do that and that is why we voted to nonconcur.
House Speaker Bobby Harrell also claims that his chamber’s bill serves the will of the people. In a statement today, he said:
By failing to stand together as one, Senate Republicans went against a groundswell of grassroots support and against our state’s constitution. An official opinion issued by SC’s Attorney General clearly stated that the Senate’s version of Voter ID is ‘constitutionally suspect’ and gave strong arguments that directly support the House’s clean Voter ID bill.
Attorney General Alan Wilson, at the request of House member Alan Clemmons, weighed in on the issue. Read his opinion letter. Wilson’s letter did not budge the Senate’s resolve to return to their measure.