COLUMBIA — Gov. Nikki Haley said the 25 rides her administration scheduled to take voters to the DMV for a free photo ID should help make the case for the federal government to approve new voting standards for South Carolina.
The governor said today the rides should be evidence to the U.S. Department of Justice that she is trying to make sure more people — not less —can vote under a new state law that requires voters to bring government-issued ID to the polls. The law won't go into effect until it is authorized by the Justice Department, an extra step required because of South Carolina's past voter discrimination.
"What we wanted to do was put it out there and make sure we were helping anybody that did want to get a state ID," Haley said today. "I said all along we wanted everybody that wanted a state ID to get one."
Haley arranged for the state Department of Motor Vehicles to provide free rides to any voters who needed a state-issued ID card to make sure they could vote, if the new law goes into effect.
The rides are scheduled for Wednesday. Kevin Shwedo, the agency's executive director, said DMV workers will provide the rides to 25 individuals to 20 offices across the state. The costs to the agency will be inconsequential, he said.
Shwedo said the agency took nearly 700 calls all together, but most of the callers were looking for information about how to obtain the ID card.
The DMV call center processes more than 3,000 calls every day.
Haley said the exercise ended up benefiting hundreds of people, even though just 25 are receiving rides.
"Should it have been more? You know, there were a lot of people who said there were thousands of people that were not able to get to the DMV. None of us knew what we were walking into, but we were prepared whether it was 25 or 2,500," the governor said.
An estimated 178,000 voters do not have a state-issued ID. Passports and military ID are also acceptable. The new law also calls for the commission to provide voters with photos on their registration cards, but that system is not yet available.
Opponents of the new law warn that many voters will be disenfranchised. For instance, the state's elderly don't always have birth certificates. The Election Commission voter registration cards will not require a birth certificate, but the DMV does.