Few voters in tricounty seek photo IDs ahead of 1st District primaries

Duncan Willams (from RIGHT), Mariah Pryor and Richard Skolasky voted in the state's first election requiring a photo ID at a special election in Branchville to fill a vacant Town Council seat on Tuesday January 8, 2013. (Wade Spees/postandcourier.com) Buy this photo

Voters without a photo ID haven’t exactly flooded election offices in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties to get one before the upcoming 1st Congressional District primaries.

Some say the biggest impact of the new law — which took effect this year — might be on those who simply forget to bring their driver’s license to the polls on March 19.

It’s unclear how many South Carolina voters lacked a driver’s license or some other state-issued photo ID. One state estimate, based on voter and DMV records, put the number at more than 200,000.

But a close examination of the 17,269 Charleston County names on that list suggest the actual number may be far smaller.

Charleston County Democratic Women Susan Breslin and Nancy Moore recently combed the county list and tried to find voters without a photo ID.

Their conclusion? The vast majority had either moved to another state, died or did have driver’s licenses — just not identical records that allowed a match between the voter and DMV lists.

For instance, their last name’s might have been hyphenated in one database, but not on the other.

“There’s been such a focus on the phantom horde of people who can’t show a photo ID” Breslin said. “The real problem may be people who do have a photo ID but forget to bring it to the polls.”

Such people will be allowed to vote, but must visit their county election office to show that ID in order for their vote to count.

The 1st Congressional District primaries are the first large-scale elections in South Carolina since the new photo ID law took effect.

Sixteen Republicans are running, as are two Democratic candidates.

If most state voters already have a photo ID, that would explain why few have sought out new photo IDs in the run-up to the primaries.

Last week, only 142 photo IDs were issued through Charleston County’s voting office, and some went to Breslin and others like her who already had a photo ID but who wanted to test the system.

In Berkeley County, only three have applied for the new ID — and only three applied in Dorchester as well.

Amanda Loveday, executive director of the S.C. Democratic Party, said the federal courts took out some of the more “damaging points” from the bill.

“If someone doesn’t have a picture ID on March 19, they will still be able to cast a ballot,” she said. “Voters need to remember that in South Carolina, you can still vote without a picture ID.”

Voters without such an ID just have to provide a valid reason why they don’t have one, then vote a challenged ballot. As long as their reason is not proven false, their ballot will be counted.

Alex Stroman, the state GOP executive director, said he also hasn’t heard much concern from campaigns or voters on the change. “It’s not been a problem,” he said.

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.

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