HICKS COLUMN: Suppressing voter drives goal of bill
This month, nearly 650 Berkeley County high school students registered to vote for the first time, thanks to the local chapter of the League of Women Voters.
In Charleston County schools, the league signed up nearly 1,000 new 18-year-old voters. All of whom have proper ID, thank you very much.
"The schools love it," said Jane Pulling, education committee chairwoman for the league. "If you get kids interested at the high school level, studies show they are 50 percent more likely to become lifelong voters."
The league will continue its registration drive in Dorchester County this April.
That is, if the state doesn't put them out of business first.
Right now, state legislators want to require voter drive groups to sign out each registration form they pick up and bring back the exact number of forms, with a strict accounting of each one. Any lost form, or one turned in more than a couple of days after it is filled out, would subject the groups to fines of $50 to $1,000 per offense.
Nah, that's not meant to stop voter drives or anything.
No room for error
These high school students regularly mess up or lose these forms -- it's a fact of life.
Everyone occasionally fouls up a Social Security number or address. Any mistake on these forms would result in more fines for the league, NAACP or even political parties trying to sign up voters.
And putting a short time limit on when these groups can legally return forms is a recipe for disaster. Most people who do this sort of thing are volunteers. Folks are going to be late every now and then, and that doesn't suggest fraud -- people are just busy these days.
These fines would eat any nonprofit alive.
"We don't have the resource to pay these fines," Pulling said.
You know, you'd think the voter ID law would be enough for these folks.
An alarming trend
Since the Republicans got skunked in the 2008 election, suppressing votes has become a high priority in states where the GOP rules.
When the Justice Department stopped South Carolina's voter ID bill from becoming law last year, state officials brought out a list showing nearly 1,000 dead people have voted in recent elections.
Funny, just last week, the independent State Election Commission reported that is has reviewed the list and found no instances of voter fraud, just clerical errors.
Now SLED, which has to answer to state politicians, feels the need to investigate further. They are going to beat this horse until after the 2012 election, at least.
To understand all this, you only have to look at studies that show an alarming pattern in elections. The higher the turnout, the worse the Republican Party seems to fare.
Couple that with the fact that young voters tend to be more moderate or liberal than older, white, suburban voters and, well, this new legislation makes a lot of sense.
"It will put us out of business," Pulling said.
Well, yeah. That's the idea.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @BriHicks_PandC.