Officials say voter ID law working well in SC A county look at photo voter registration cards

A poster prepared by South Carolina tells about the state's new photo identification law for voting. Provided

Somebody needs to send a gift basket, or at least a thank-you note, to those boys in the North Carolina Legislature.

They continually do their best to make us look like the saner Carolina ... even if that is damning by faint praise.

A federal judge last week struck down another North Carolina voter ID law, once again because it was deemed discriminatory toward minorities. Based on their past actions and lame-duck session chicanery in 2018 (not to mention habitual gerrymandering), it seems state legislators there get more bad reviews than that "Cats" movie.

“North Carolina has a sordid history of racial discrimination and voter suppression stretching back to the time of slavery, through the era of Jim Crow, and, crucially, continuing up to the present day,” U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs wrote in her order.

Ouch.

Of course, they deserve it. A few years ago, during the first North Carolina voter ID lawsuit, officials blatantly admitted their aim was to limit the number of African Americans casting ballots.

Nobody ever said you had to be smart to be nefarious.

Meanwhile, South Carolina — where the Civil War began, and one day might end — goes about its business looking downright reasonable by comparison. The National Conference of State Legislatures rates our voter ID law one of the more moderate among the 36 states that have them.

And that is pretty funny, given our history.

South Carolina was the very first state to request identification from voters at the polls, way back in the 1950 election, which was the first statewide election held after the Democratic Party lost two consecutive lawsuits to keep black voters out of its primary.

But that could be totally a coincidence.

It was 20 years before other states began to ask for an ID, and it still didn’t become a big partisan issue until statehouses run by Republicans (the descendants of those early 20th century Dems) started politicking on “voter fraud” back in 2006. Which was a nifty way to turn out the base in an election year when the forecast called for a GOP shellacking.

They claimed, like these North Carolina cheaters, that this is about protecting the integrity of the elections ... and stopping people from voting illegally. Even though North Carolina, which has more than 6 million registered voters, had only two cases of in-person voter fraud prosecuted between 2000 and 2014.

Which makes the odds of voter fraud there about the same as the chances of hitting the Powerball.

South Carolina’s voter ID law is considered more fair than some because it makes allowances for people who have a reasonable impediment to getting a photo ID — like not having a car — or don’t want their photo taken for religious reasons. Which is sort of like not getting vaccines to stave off infectious disease, but whatever.

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As a result, in the past couple of statewide elections there have only been a few hundred South Carolina votes (out of several million cast) that were considered provisional. And all of those were counted eventually. Look, ma. No fraud.

Now, South Carolina didn't start out with such a forgiving voter ID law — the courts ordered the original toned down. Attorney General Alan Wilson actually wrote the toned-down "interpretation," and the Legislature either didn't mind or didn't notice.

You’d think North Carolina officials could just copy our voter ID law, seeing as how it’s working fairly well and not overtly disenfranchising thousands of people.

But no. North Carolina Republicans are now screaming about unelected, activist judges overturning the will of the people. So they’ve asked unelected, activist Justice Department officials to overturn the ruling.

It’s not a good look. Does that make them nastier, and more partisan, than South Carolina politicians? Maybe. Most of our legislative leaders are pretty practical.

But the real difference here is the stakes. South Carolina leaders don't have to game the system for electoral advantage, while North Carolina is an actual battleground state where a few thousand votes can decide a Senate seat.

It’s pretty to think South Carolina would remain reasonable even if it one day becomes a battleground state (other than the kind where replica muskets are fired). But we’ll probably never know.

Unless, of course, Lindsey Graham fools around and loses in November.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com.