Before I discuss what I think of the law, let me tell you first what it is and what you need in order to vote in the November 4, 2014 election.
South Carolina’s new Voter ID law went into effect January 1, 2013. In order to cast a regular ballot in the election, you must present a qualifying photo ID–one of the following 5 items:
- A South Carolina Driver’s License. Suspended licenses DO NOT QUALIFY.
- An ID card issued by the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles.
- A US Passport.
- A US Military ID (includes military contractor IDs issued by the Department of Defense and VA benefit and spousal benefit cards so long as these have a photo).
- A South Carolina Elections Commission voter registration card WITH PHOTO. Older cards do not have a photo.
If the ID has an expiration date on it, it must not have expired to be considered valid. Student ID’s and concealed weapons permits DO NOT QUALIFY as an ID for voting purposes.
You can go to your county elections commission and get a free voter registration card with your photo on it. This process requires you to give your social-security number, but you do not have to have a birth certificate.
If you show up at the polls without an ID, there is a process for determining your options. If you have an ID, but forgot it, you can go home and get it. If you don’t have an ID and no good reason for not having one, you can vote a provisional (paper) ballot BUT you will have to present an ID to your county elections commission before the date of for finalizing the ballots (the Friday following the election) in order for your ballot to count. If you don’t have and ID and there is a reasonable impediment to your getting one, you bring your voter registration card (without photo), sign an affidavit saying that you have a reasonable impediment to getting and ID, vote a provisional ballot, and if the county elections commission has no reason to doubt the truth of your affidavit, your vote will count.
In order to vote, you must register to vote within 30 days of the election. You can register to vote online. Of course it’s too late to do that for the November 4, 2014 election.
What do I think?
In a recent training session for new poll managers, the head of the Spartanburg County Elections Commission, Henry Laye, was asked how prevalent election fraud was. He stated that since he had been head of the department (more than a few years), there have been no instances of election fraud in the county. That suggests that all of the education, training, publicity, and general confusion about the SC Voter ID Law is for nothing. It is a total waste of time, energy and money. It is a solution without a problem.
Given that the law exists, the details are not bad. It doesn’t cost anything to get an ID. I’ve visited my own county elections commission office several times, and I have never seen anyone waiting to get an ID. It should be a pretty quick process. And if someone doesn’t have an ID for a good reason (and they are the sole judge of what is a good reason), they can vote a paper ballot and it will count.
The problem is that the 5 forms of required ID are prominently displayed, and publicized. The reasonable impediment exception is in small print or on the back of the brochure. Someone who doesn’t have an ID for a good reason may believe that they cannot vote, when in fact they can. That basically stacks the deck against those who don’t have an ID. Anything that makes the playing field un-level is, in my opinion, a bad thing.