COLUMBIA -- The S.C. Progressive Network issued a warning Friday to the nearly 25,000 registered voters in the tri-county area without a state-issued photo ID: You could run into trouble the next time you go to the polls.
The advocacy organization is urging the U.S. Department of Justice to reject a new South Carolina law that will require all voters to carry a picture ID to cast a ballot in future elections. The state's Republican leadership pushed for the new law, citing a need to guard against voter fraud even though there has been no substantive proof of widespread voter fraud for years in the state.
Statewide, as many 200,000 people will be affected. Locally, most of the voters affected are white, and the largest age group is 25-44, according to 2010 data from the State Election Commission.
South Carolina is one of seven states that have strict photo ID voting laws, but Brett Bursey, director of the Progressive Network, said South Carolina's goes further than the rest.
Bursey said South Carolina is the lone state that will accept only a federal ID or its own state-issued ID or driver's license at the polls. To get a state ID, a resident needs a birth certificate.
South Carolina is the lone state with a voter ID law that requires a federal ID or a South Carolina-issued ID while also requiring a birth certificate to get a state ID.
And unlike other states, South Carolina does not have a hardship exemption, with exceptions to presenting photo ID at the polls, that would allow people like Delores Freelon of Columbia to vote.
When Freelon was born in California in July 1952 her mother had not decided on her first name. As a result, her birth certificate doesn't list one. The state Department of Motor Vehicles won't accept the record, and California's government told Freelon it will take up to two years before they can issue her a new one. A name change in court will cost between $700 and $1,000, Freelon said.
"What happened to 'We the people'? It became 'We the politicians,' " she said.
Because of those sorts of hurdles, Bursey said the new voter ID law is akin to a poll tax. He is pursuing an effort to have the Justice Department throw out the law, and Bursey wants Gov. Nikki Haley to help. But she's not going to.
"Governor Haley is motivated by the excitement that comes when people show the power of their voice -- every man and woman in the military from South Carolina fight for us to have the right to speak up," Rob Godfrey, Haley press secretary, said in a statement. "Having said that, she also knows the voter ID law she signed this session was a critical step toward securing electoral integrity in our great state."
Rep. Mike Sottile, R-Isle of Palms, made no apology for his support of the new law.
"It is something that my constituents were demanding," he said. "I heard from a lot of people in my district, and they were adamant about wanting voter ID to pass.
"I find it hard to believe that people can't get a photo ID. You pretty much have to use a photo ID for just about anything you do in this day and time," Sottile said.
The law makes it free for those 17 or older to receive an ID card from the DMV. Those without an ID would be able to cast a ballot, but for the vote to be counted, they would need to produce a valid ID before the election is certified, which typically happens in about three days.
The ID law cannot take effect unless the U.S. Justice Department gives the OK on the new law because of South Carolina's history of voter discrimination.
Several other state and national groups also may challenge the law, including the NAACP, ACLU and Legislative Black Caucus.
The Justice Department is expected to accept comments on the law through late August. A decision is expected after that.