South Carolina legislative leaders have reached a deal on a bill that requires a person to show a photo identification card in order to vote. Senators on Wednesday agreed to drop a section that would have allowed a two-week early voting period after assurances from House leaders they would work to address early voting as a separate bill.
Senate President pro tempore Glenn McConnell (R-Charleston) said he felt the final report, which merged the House and Senate versions of the bill, was as good as both sides were going to get.
The bill would require a person to show either a state-issued ID, a passport, or a military ID before casting a ballot. Those who do not have an ID would be able to get one from the state for free. Opponents worry the new requirements would effectively disenfranchise thousands of people who legally registered to vote.
This is the third year in a row that photo identification legislation went to conference committee. Last year, the House approved the committee report, but the Senate never got to a vote before the session ended. Sen. Chip Campsen (R-Charleston) said this year’s version has the best chance.
We’ve come close a couple of times, but ultimately could not bring it across the finish line. I think we will be able to this time.
The early voting provision was originally included as a compromise to end a Democratic filibuster on the bill. Republicans in the House rejected the change, arguing that early voting has nothing to do with showing an ID at a polling station. Sen. John Scott (D-Richland) said its removal would not help things. He refused to sign the joint committee’s report.
I would… have been happy to say we have now done the people of the state a great favor, but we have not.
House Speaker pro tempore Jay Lucas (R-Darlington) said the state needs to fix its absentee ballot laws before it starts early voting. He has proposed a bill that would create early voting in South Carolina and promised senators he would work to bring it to the House floor.
Scott and other Democrats argue vote fraud is not a problem in South Carolina. The bill’s supporters say there is no way to prove fraud without the law.
The report now goes back to both the House and Senate, which will have to approve its recommended changes with a straight up-or-down vote, although Democrats in the Senate could still filibuster it.
Since South Carolina is covered by the Voting Rights Act, any changes to election law would require preclearance from the U.S. Department of Justice. Some senators are worried the Justice Department will strike down the law if it does not include early voting. House leaders point out that Georgia passed a similar law that was approved in 2009. However, Georgia already had early voting in its state law.