The Rev. Isaac Holt of North Charleston's Royal Missionary Baptist Church thought his church should do more for its 2,000-plus members than simply minister to their spiritual needs.
With Voter Photo IDs, a wide range of results
County IDs issued
South Carolina 13,110
Note: Figures are through Jan. 30
Source: State Election Commission
And that's a big reason why election offices in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties have issued more voter registration cards with photos than Greenville County has - even though Greenville is the state's largest county.
At Holt's urging, Shayna Blair helped organize two "afternoons of empowerment" at the church, and the one held last month attracted more than 200 voters.
"We want everyone who is eligible to vote to be able to vote," Blair said, adding that the new photo ID cards were the primary draw at the event.
The cards are new, born out of the state's new Voter ID law that took effect last year and requires some sort of photo ID, such as a driver's license, Department of Motor Vehicle identification card, U.S. Passport or federal military ID.
The fifth kind of photo ID acceptable is the newly-created South Carolina Voter Registration Card with a photo, issued by county election offices.
The number of such IDs actually issued varies widely by county - from more than 1,900 in Darlington County to only 84 in Greenville, the state's most populated county.
Lowcountry election officials say the number varies based in part on local efforts, such as the one by Royal Missionary Baptist, to reach out to voters and ensure they are properly qualified to vote.
Berkeley County Elections Director Adam Hammons said Berkeley issued 51 such IDs in all of 2013. When it sent a staff member to Blair's empowerment event, "we did 50 that day," he said, even though the church isn't even in Berkeley County.
State Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire said the process of rolling out the new form of voter IDs has been smooth, and 13,110 had received one as of last month.
"It will be interesting to see what the numbers look like this year," he said, noting that this is the first general election since the law took effect.
Lowcountry election officials cited several possible reasons why the numbers vary so much - from local efforts to engage voters to the relative ease of travelling to the county seat to the number of voters comfortable with using their driver's license.
And there might be a partisan element, too. Republican lawmakers pushed through the new Voter ID requirements to combat voter fraud. They did so over objections from Democratic ones, who argued there is little fraud but worried the new rules could disenfranchise voters. Some solidly Republican counties such as Pickens and Oconee have issued relatively few IDs, while Democratic strongholds such as Richland and Darlington counties have issued the most.
But there have been few, if any, reports of the new rules causing problems at the polls during the special elections held last year.
And Charleston County Elections Director Joe Debney, Dorchester County Elections Director Josh Dickard and Hammons all agreed that at least half of those who received new photo IDs already had a driver's license. Dickard said some simply preferred having yet another ID, "and we don't have a problem doing that at all."
Blair said many who received a new photo ID had a driver's license but are more reluctant to present that to vote because it also contains sensitive information, including one's birth date, weight, home address and organ donor status.
"It's less intimidating when you have the most current credential and you can show that to the poll manager or poll worker," she said.
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.