Justice seeks info on voter ID law
COLUMBIA -- South Carolina voters will have wait to find out whether the U.S. Department of Justice will authorize the state's new voter ID law, following an announcement Monday that federal officials need more information from the state.
Chris Whitmire, spokesman for the State Election Commission, said once state officials supply the information to the Justice Department, a 60-day window will begin for the federal agency to render a decision on the law. The law could be in effect for the November elections, but that will depend on how long the state takes to respond and if the Justice Department takes two full months to decide.
Gov. Nikki Haley signed into law in May the requirement that voters provide a photo ID when they cast a ballot. The state must receive authorization from the Justice Department because of past voting rights abuses.
Haley and supporters of the law contend that the new standards are necessary to ensure no fraud is committed during an election. What's more, they say, photo IDs are a part of life in modern society.
Critics challenge the law on the basis that it will disenfranchise voters, especially black voters. They point to the fact that there is no proven evidence of South Carolina voter fraud in recent times.
An estimated 178,000 registered voters in South Carolina don't currently have a state-issued driver's license or ID card.
In addition to those IDs issued by the state Department of Motor Vehicles, voters could use a military ID or a passport to vote, under the new law. Additionally, the State Election Commission will offer new voter registration cards with photos in all of South Carolina's 46 counties. Like the state ID card, for those 17 and older, the voter registration cards will be free.
The Election Commission does not require a birth certificate to register to vote and those standards wouldn't change under the new law. To register to vote, a person needs a current valid photo ID or a copy of a current utility bill, a bank statement, pay stub or government document that shows the person's name and address.
The Justice Department told the state that federal officials need to know more about how South Carolina plans to implement the new law.
The agency's questions include: when and where the new photo voter registration cards will be available; how the Election Commission will notify voters of the new rules; and how election officials will be trained.