COLUMBIA — South Carolina voters will have to carry photo identification to the polls for future elections, pending U.S. Justice Department approval of a law Gov. Nikki Haley signed Wednesday.

The highly contentious law pushed by Republicans is intended to tighten up voting procedures in South Carolina. However, Democrats and advocacy organizations, such as the ACLU and the S.C. Progressive Network, argue that the law will squeeze out minority voters and the poor.

Although South Carolina is considered a red state, some elections are decided by a small margin of votes.

Haley said people outside South Carolina are watching the state for its transparency, accountability and integrity, measures that continue to improve with such laws. Voters will have to prove who they are, she said.

“This is a great day for South Carolina,” Haley said.

The law calls for voters to show a South Carolina driver’s license, a photo ID issued by the state Department of Motor Vehicles, a passport, a military ID with a picture issued by the federal government, or a new voter registration card with a photo to be issued in the future by the S.C. Election Commission.

Currently, voters must provide a state driver’s license, photo ID card from the DMV or a voter registration card, which does not have a picture on it.

An estimated 178,000 registered voters do not have a DMV-issued driver’s license or ID card. The law eliminates the $5 fee for a DMV ID card for those 17 or older.

The Justice Department must approve before the law can go into effect. The federal agency has 60 days to respond, although approval or denial could take longer. If approved, the law would go into effect immediately and photo IDs would be required for elections.

Arizona, Georgia and Louisiana have received pre-clearance for similar legislation. A spokesman for the agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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The Progressive Network is campaigning to block the law. The coalition will gather affidavits for submission to the Justice Department to document people’s difficulties and expenses in obtaining photo IDs.

“This law will prevent thousands of South Carolinians from voting,” network director Brett Bursey said in a statement. “Since there is no evidence of individuals pretending to be someone else at the polls, the clear intent of this law — passed by a Republican Party line vote — is to suppress the vote of poor people and minorities, who historically vote Democrat.”

Read more in Thursday’s editions of The Post and Courier. If you want to weigh in on the whether the new law is good or bad for South Carolina, call Wenger at 843-607-3441 or email her at