It's apparently more tricky than anybody thought to figure out how many South Carolina voters need photo IDs.
This week, the State Election Commission released an updated estimate of how many registered voters don't have photo IDs. The previous estimate was 178,000. On Thursday, they said it was probably 217,000 -- or about 40,000 more.
Then Friday, the commission said that they may have further underestimated the numbers, by excluding more than 74,000 people who haven't voted since 2006.
The state attorney general's office wants some more information about those newly discovered.
"We're going to talk with the S.C. Election Commission and figure out what analysis they used to come up with their numbers," said Deputy Attorney General Bryan Stirling. He said he expects that to happen early next week. Then they'll either submit new information to the DOJ or ask that the Election Commission go back and recalculate, he said.
So, in one week we've gone from 217,000 to potentially more than 290,000 people. Of course, that's minus the 21 people who signed up for rides to local DMV offices Thursday. If the DMV could register 21 people a day, every day of the year, it would take 38 years to get everybody covered.
Might not work out for the folks who want to vote Nov. 8 in the local municipal elections in the Lowcountry, or in the GOP primary, which for all we know could be next week.
The one-two punch of few people taking advantage of the free rides and the realization that even more people could be affected by the new law should be food for thought for all concerned.
Of course, this is all to fix a problem that has not been documented to exist in this state, namely, one person posing as another person to vote.
It's certainly something that's not lost on Victoria Middleton, executive director of the ACLU of South Carolina. Middleton has been traveling the state attending voter forums and has heard firsthand from people from all walks of life about the strain the law will put on them.
There is an exception to the law, but it might not make things any easier, Middleton said. It's the "reasonable impediment" clause -- the fact that some people who have existing voter ID cards and who can vote now because their polling places are nearby simply may not be able to get to the DMV or may not be able to provide the necessary documents to get a voter photo ID. This doesn't mean they're illegal immigrants, by the way.
If voters can't get to the DMV, Middleton points out, it's probably not going to be any easier for them to get to their county election commission office to get a photo ID, another potential solution under the law.
What kind of choice?
There has to be some kind of alternative that won't prevent people from voting -- provided that we do actually want them to be able to vote.
So, non-photo-ID carrying voters might have to give an affidavit at the polling place, to a poll worker who would have to be properly trained to take it. Sometimes it's a challenge just finding poll workers, so finding and training people to meet this new standard, and creating a way to do it without it being an invasion of privacy for the voter, would seem to be a bit of a challenge.
And it's not just poll worker education, it's voter education, too.
"How is this going to work in practice," Middleton asked. "Can they educate everybody ... that you're not going to be able to vote with your old voter card?" As she said, "The problem is bigger than we thought."
The state may have driven 21 people to the DMV, but they're taking a lot more of them for a ride.