COLUMBIA — South Carolina House Republicans on Wednesday pushed through a measure requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls, as Democrats blasted them for spending money on what they called voter suppression while the state faces a deficit.
Currently, voters can show their voter registration cards, which lack pictures, or driver’s licenses. Under the measure, they must show either driver’s licenses, photo IDs issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles, passports, military IDs, or new voter registration cards that include photos.
The House voted 74-45 to advance the bill. No Democrat voted in favor. The measure requires another perfunctory vote before heading to the Senate.
The hours-long debate echoed the contentious arguments of last year. The voter ID measure died last June, as House and Senate members failed to agree on a compromise. The Senate added a two-week window of early voting in its version.
But Republicans in both chambers have called voter ID a priority this year.
“Protecting the integrity of the election system in South Carolina, that’s the goal here,” said Rep. Alan Clemmons, R-Myrtle Beach.
He argued residents already must flash photo IDs even to buy cold medicine, so it shouldn’t be a problem.
“A picture ID is required to do just about anything in our society, except to vote,” House Speaker Bobby Harrell said after the vote. “Unlike most things in our society, our system of securing elections has not kept up with changing technology.”
Democrats countered that it would suppress the vote of minorities, the disabled and elderly who don’t have such IDs. They compared the requirement to Jim Crow-era laws in the South that kept blacks from voting. And they accused Republicans of pushing for the bill following the election of President Barack Obama.
About 178,000 voters in South Carolina don’t have driver’s licenses or DMV-issued photo IDs, according to the state Election Commission.
“The right to vote is sacrosanct. There are some things you should not play with,” said the Rev. Joe Neal, D-Hopkins, adding that too many of his friends and relatives suffered for the right to vote. “I can’t sit idly by and watch this body commit a sin, and this is a sin. How do you justify it?”
For residents 17 and older, the proposal would waive the state’s $5 fee for photo IDs.
The amended bill would cost the Election Commission $460,000 in one-time money for voter education, training and camera stations, plus an additional $260,000 yearly for additional absentee ballots and photo ID supplies, according to the agency.
Rep. Bakari Sellers notes the state would also lose out on revenue from the photo ID fee, which goes toward road maintenance. After bashing the federal government for its spending, Republicans need to “embrace your rhetoric,” he said, noting the state faces an $830 million budget gap for the fiscal year that starts July 1.
“Where are we getting the money from?” asked Sellers, D-Denmark.
As the debate started, Rep. Bill Clyburn, chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, said he knew Republicans, who control the chamber with a 76-47 margin, had the numbers to push the bill through, no matter what Democrats argued. He urged his colleagues to keep in mind that they’re going to need Democrats’ support on future bills.
House Minority Leader Harry Ott said the House should be spending its time on job creation, not voter ID.
“This is raw politics at its worst,” said Ott, D-St. Matthews.
Courtesy of The Herald