PRO: Move will protect state's elections from fraud by verifying the identity of each voter

COLUMBIA -- South Carolina elections will have more protection from fraud, supporters say, by making voters do what they already must do to fly on an airplane: Flash a secure picture ID.

Gov. Nikki Haley walked out of her Statehouse office for a ceremonial voter ID bill- signing Wednesday to the

Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling" and a crowd of dozens of supporters and Republican lawmakers.

"We continue to improve the levels of South Carolina in terms of integrity, accountability and transparency," Haley said. "I have heard from people out of state how impressed they are that we took it upon ourselves to say, 'We are going to make sure we maintain the integrity of our voters.' "

House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, said the law, which must be reviewed by the U.S. Justice Department before it can go into effect, was a priority for Republicans.

"We (will) know that the person who is casting the vote is in fact the person casting the vote, and we're pretty excited about that," Harrell said.

Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Isle of Palms, said the suggestion that the law was retribution from Republicans for President Barack Obama's November 2008 election is wrong. Campsen worked since the spring of 2008 to draft the bill, relying on a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that upheld a similar law in Indiana.

"A working Republic is built upon fair and honest elections," Campsen said.

CON: Democrats are being punished with law that wastes money, creates hurdle for voters

COLUMBIA -- To opponents, the new South Carolina voter ID law is a costly measure meant to punish Democrats for strong turnout in the 2008 presidential election.

They argue that the law will disenfranchise an estimated 178,000 registered voters without a state-issued driver's license or picture ID. Many of those voters live in poor regions of the state, where minority populations are higher, according to S.C. Progressive Network

Director Brett Bursey.

If they can't vote, Republicans may have an easier time maintaining political dominance in the state.

The Progressive Network is gathering affidavits for submission to the U.S. Department of Justice within the next 60 days to document people's difficulties and expenses in obtaining photo IDs.

Opponents are concerned that the process to get a state- issued photo ID will be cumbersome and expensive for people without modern-day standard birth certificates or those who have married or divorced and have not gone through a legal name change.

Rep. Wendell Gilliard, D-Charleston, said the law is mean-spirited. "This was a dangerous bill and it's a waste of the taxpayer's money," he said.

Supporters say the law will cost the state about $500,000 to $600,000, but Victoria Middleton, executive director of American Civil Liberties Union South Carolina's office in Charleston, said that estimate is not realistic. The cost could reach the millions when factoring in the price of voter-education efforts and creating a new process for future voter-registration cards with photos, as well as the potential lost revenue from waiving the current $5 fee for state-issued IDs.

"We're taking a step backward," she said. "We should be encouraging a higher turnout."

The details

What you need to know about the new Voter ID law:

Who it affects: All voters will have to carry one of five approved picture IDs to the polls in future elections, pending U.S. Department of Justice approval. An estimated 178,000 registered voters do not have a S.C. driver's license or a state Department of Motor Vehicles-issued ID card.

The law makes it free for those 17 or older to receive a DMV ID card, which now costs $5.

What you will need to bring to the polls: A S.C. driver's license, a photo ID issued by the DMV, a passport or a military ID with a picture issued by the federal government. Eventually, the State Election Commission is expected to issue a new voter-registration card with a photo, but those cards will not be issued until the Legislature provides money to do so.

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.

When does the new law go into effect? The new law will not take effect until the Justice Department approves it. The federal agency has 60 days to respond, although approval or denial could take longer. If it grants approval, the law would immediately go into effect and photo IDs would be required for elections.

Who to call if you have questions: The State Election Commission is available by phone at 803-734-9060 or online at www.scvotes.org. The state DMV is at 803-896-5000 and www.scdmvonline.com.

--Yvonne Wenger

How they voted

The House voted 71-36 on April 26 to approval the final version of the voter ID law. The Senate voted 26-16 to approve the same plan on May 11.

Here is how local lawmakers voted:

Republicans voting in favor: Campbell, Goose Creek; Campsen, Isle of Palms; Cleary, Murrells Inlet; Crosby, North Charleston; Daning, Goose Creek; Grooms, Bonneau; Harrell, Charleston; Horne, Summeville; McConnell, Charleston; McCoy, Charleston; Murphy, Summerville; Rose, Summerville; Ryan, Pawleys Island; and Sottile, Isle of Palms.

Republicans voting against: None.

Democrats voting in favor: None.

Democrats voting against: Brown, Hollywood; Ford, Charleston; Gilliard, Charleston; Jefferson, Pineville; Knight, St. George; Matthews, Bowman; Pinckney, Ridgeland; Whipper, Charleston.

Not voting: Limehouse, R-Charleston; Mack, D-North Charleston; Merrill, R-Charleston; Stavrinakis, D-Charleston; Umphlett, R-Moncks Corner.

Reach Yvonne Wenger at 803-926-7855, follow her at twitter.com/yvonnewenger and read her Political Briefings blog at postandcourier.com/blogs.