COLUMBIA -- South Carolina voters will need to have photographic identification to vote under a deal reached by a House and Senate conference committee Wednesday.
Three House members signed off on the deal while two of three senators did so. The House and Senate will decide whether to accept the compromise next week and send it to the governor's desk.
Republicans say the bill is about voter integrity. Democrats say it suppresses turnout by minority, disabled and elderly voters who lack a driver's license and they argued that educating people on the measure and supplying a free photo ID will be expensive.
Democrats had been willing to go along in exchange for adding a new early voting process in South Carolina. But House Republicans, including state Rep. Alan Clemmons, insisted that the bill be stripped down to requiring photographic identification.
"We will have cleaner elections. We will have solid elections coming out of this clean voter ID bill," said Clemmons, a Myrtle Beach Republican who led the House negotiators.
Sen. John Scott, a Columbia Democrat, said scuttling early voting took too much away from voters.
"We could have taken care of both issues at the same time," Scott said.
"We will endeavor to get something moving on early voting and to see if we can't get that done," Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell said.
McConnell, a Charleston Republican, said the final bill is tougher on identification than the House wanted because it sets standards for qualifying for an ID by removing a requirement to show a birth certificate. "It was a path to fraud," McConnell said.
Victoria Middleton, executive director of the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the legislation threatens voter rights. "Well, 178,000 people just lost their vote, potentially," Middleton said.