August 16, 2011
By Matt Long
The estimated 180,000 South Carolinians who do not have a photo ID could still vote in upcoming local elections, the state Attorney General’s Office said Tuesday.
The issue is a law which passed the Legislature in May that requires voters to show a photo identification card in order to cast their ballot. The law also requires the Department of Motor Vehicles to provide free identification cards to those without driver’s licenses or other state-issued ID.
The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups are asking the Justice Department to reject the law. The federal agency must review any changes to South Carolina’s election laws because the state is covered under the Voting Rights Act.
The State Elections Commission is worried there is not enough time to educate voters about the new law’s changes should approval come down in the next few weeks. Executive Director Marci Andino asked the Attorney General’s Office for a legal opinion on whether or not voters would have to show photo identification at the next round of local elections in August and September.
Deputy Attorney General Robert Cook answered Tuesday that the new law could take effect too quickly, presenting a “reasonable impediment” to voters. “Such a short time frame is beyond the voter’s control,” Cook wrote. The opinion said voters could likely continue to cast ballots without photo IDs through September, even if the law is cleared by the federal government.
While the opinion only dealt with elections in the next month, Andino also expressed concerns for Election Day in November. She said South Carolina will not order the equipment needed to put photos on voter registration cards until the law is approved. She said that means it will not be able to print the cards until mid-October.
The Justice Department could approve or reject the law by the end of the month.However, the agency could also seek more information before it makes a ruling, which could push any decision into September.