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Haley signs Voter ID bill into law

May 18, 2011
| The State by Gina Smith

With music pumping, Gov. Nikki Haley signed into law Wednesday a bill requiring S.C. voters to show a photo ID, such as a driver’s license, to cast a ballot.

Currently, voters only must show a voter registration card, which does not have a photo.

“If you can show a picture to buy Sudafed, if you can show a picture to get on an airplane, you should be able to show a picture ID to (vote),” Haley said during the signing ceremony, surrounded by supporters and lawmakers who pushed the bill.

Joe Dugan, chairman of the Myrtle Beach Tea Party, made the drive to see the signing and celebrate. “If we don’t have integrity at the ballot box, we don’t have it anywhere.”

But Democrats and bill opponents say the law will suppress turnout by likely Democratic voters, including the poor and African-Americans, who are less likely to have photo IDs or transportation to get one.

It also could hinder students from voting, they say. The law, which still must win approval from the U.S. Justice Department, does not recognize student IDs as a valid form of identification for voting.

Assuming it wins Justice Department approval, future voters will have to show a South Carolina driver’s license, other photo ID issued by the state Department of Motor Vehicle, a military ID or a passport.

Some Democrats, including state Rep. Bakari Sellers, D-Bamburg, said they also were insulted that Haley played a song by the Black Eyed Peas, a multiracial hip-hop group, during her press conference.

“That’s what she plays when she’s trying to suppress us and our vote,” said Sellers, whose father, Cleveland Sellers, was a civil rights leader. “They (bill supporters) don’t know what it feels like to fight for the right to vote.”

“This is not a victory,” added state Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Darlington. “This sets us back. Flying on an airplane is not a constitutional right.”

The S.C. Progressive Network, who held a press conference to oppose voter IDs, said it is in contact with the U.S. Justice Department in hopes of getting the law tossed out, claiming it is more restrictive than voter ID laws in other states.

Bill supporters say it is not.

Disagreement also exists on how much the bill will cost taxpayers. Opponents say the new law will cost more than $1 million a year to enforce while House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, said Wednesday it would be $500,000 to $600,000.

If state money is provided, the state Election Commission plans to print photo IDs for voters who do not have one now.

The two sides also disagree on the level of voter fraud in the state.

The state Election Commission says it has no recent reports of voter fraud. But supporters say it’s happening, just under the radar.

“I have heard of too much voter fraud across the country to think that South Carolina is a shining star,” Dugan said

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