A group trying to stop the South Carolina’s new voter ID legislation from taking effect says the law will disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters.
The liberal grassroots organization Progressive Network is asking the U.S. Justice Department not to approve the controversial law, which requires all voters to have a driver’s license, passport, or military ID in order to cast their ballot. At a press conference Friday, members and state legislators accused the law’s Republican authors of trying to keep certain groups from voting.
Progressive Network director Brett Bursey said the Elections Commission has identified thousands of registered voters who do not currently have photo IDs.
One of them is Delores Freelon. She lives in Columbia, but has moved from state to state over her lifetime. Her California birth certificate does not have a first name on it because her mother had not come up with one by the time she left the hospital. Freelon said when her Louisiana license expired earlier this year, South Carolina would not issue her a replacement. She said California would not be able to fix the problem in time for the next election.
“Sometimes, one vote makes a difference. I won’t even be able to make that difference, nor would many more people who are in the same situation that I’m in because of some type of problem… with a birth certificate.”
Larry Butler says he is also affected by the law and does not know what to do. An 85-year-old Calhoun County native, Butler said he does not have a birth certificate. He said he originally had a driver’s license when he moved to Maryland in 1949. However, he ran into a problem when he moved back to South Carolina last year– the state would not give him a new license because he could not produce his birth certificate.
There are legal routes available for both Butler and Freelon. For example, Freelon could go court to address the problem with her name. However, she said she does not know if she could afford the legal fees a court appearance would require.
In a message to the Justice Department, the law’s sponsor Rep. Alan Clemmons (R-Myrtle Beach) said the photo ID requirement was necessary to identify voter fraud. In the letter he wrote, “It is an unspoken truth in South Carolina that election fraud exists.”
Rep. Joe Neal (R-Columbia) disputed that, saying no example of voter impersonation has ever been prosecuted in the state. He took issue with Clemmons’s “unspoken truth” language.
“I say to the public here today: don’t be fooled and don’t be misguided,” Neal said, “This is a national effort to suppress the right to vote for the 2012 elections. That’s the unspoken truth.”
Neal said it was a personal issue for him as his mother did not have a birth certificate, either.
Because of South Carolina’s checkered history on civil rights, the U.S. Justice Department has to give permission for any changes to election laws. The Progressive Network, NAACP, and the ACLU are all involved in the effort to get the Justice Department to oppose the law.