Election Officials Are Misleading This State’s Voters About Voter ID Requirements


Are you getting ready to vote in the upcoming primaries in South Carolina? If you are, chances are that you’re probably going to see this poster about the “required” voter IDs you will be asked to provide before you cast the ballot. Hopefully you won’t forget to grab one before you head out to exercise your constitutional right and participate in our democracy:

SCvoterid Election Officials Are Misleading This State's Voters About Voter ID Requirements Election 2016 Politics
Image by South Carolina Votes

There’s just one small issue with this message though, South Carolinians. You can actually still vote without any of those things. Technically they can’t turn you away from the polls if you show up without a photo ID. But you wouldn’t really know that though unless you took the time to read the fine print at the bottom. So, don’t panic if you don’t have one for whatever reason.

According to Think Progress, South Carolina is far less strict about their Voter ID laws than some of the other 35 states which have recently passed them. Since South Carolina is a “non-strict” ID state, you can not be turned away simply for failing to provide one. All you have to do is provide a “reasonable impediment,” which “can include anything from family responsibilities to a lack of transportation or disability.” You will then be provided an affidavit, which you can sign and include on your ballot so your vote counts. The only thing stopping you is if someone else proves you are lying about who you are.

Are you confused? Don’t worry. The law makes very little sense when you really look at it, unless you’re the type that absolutely delights in paradoxes and contradictions, who thinks believing one thing and its opposite all at once is just great fun all the time. Susan Dunn, legal director of South Carolina’s American Civil Liberties Union, states that the actual content of the law “doesn’t make for good soundbites.” She stated further:

‘It’s easier to say you have to have ID, but you don’t have to have ID.’

So yes, an argument has been made that it’s actually easier to tell voters you do and you don’t have to have an ID in order to vote in South Carolina. Still confused? Isn’t it supposed to be one way or the other, having or not having an ID? What’s the point in having the laws in the first place?

If you’re still trying to make sense of this, you are not alone. It is clear that many potential voters will have a tough time with it themselves, and this may discourage some of them from voting.

It has often been argued that these ID laws are inherently designed to encourage lower turnout, particularly among minority voters, in the states where laws are the most strict. In fact, one study has shown that strict voter ID laws are very effective in doing this. The study found that in primary elections, “a strict ID law could be expected to depress Latino turnout by 9.3 points, Black turnout by 8.6 points, and Asian American turnout by 12.5 points.”

The extent to which South Carolina’s non-strict laws will affect the turnout in these communities has yet to be seen. One can only hope the same effect is not replicated. Republican Governor Nikki Haley, however, is certain that the option to “provide free rides to the DMV” for those without an ID will prevent this issue from happening.

Why all the hubbub about IDs in the first place? Why does the governor insist on wasting people’s time at the DMV just so they can comply with a law that, frankly, doesn’t seem to serve any purpose in the first place? Aren’t the Republicans supposed to be the party that hates government obstruction and pointless bureaucracy?

Featured image via Flickr, under a Creative Commons license.