COLUMBIA --- The South Carolina House on Tuesday approved an agreement on a bill requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls, discounting Democrats' arguments that the measure would disenfranchise voters.
The House voted 71-36 along party lines to accept a compromise worked out last week by a committee of House and Senate members. The Senate expects to take up the agreement later this week. Approval from the Senate would move the measure to the governor's desk.
Democrats decried the measure as a suppression tool aimed at minorities, harkening back to the state's Jim Crow-era past, and accused Republicans of pushing through an unnecessary and costly measure. Republicans contend it's a matter of voter integrity.
The bill, first approved by the House in early 2009, died last year with the two chambers unable to reach a compromise. The agreement limits the measure to voter identification -- a priority this year for Republicans who control both chambers. It removed a two-week window of early voting before Election Day and photo ID exemptions for the elderly -- provisions added in the Senate.
It requires voters to show either a driver's license, other photo ID issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles, passport, military ID or upcoming voter registration card that includes a photo.
The bill allows adults to get a free photo ID from the DMV.
More than 178,000 voters lack a driver's license or DMV photo ID. That represents 7 percent of registered voters
In four counties -- rural Allendale, Jasper and Marlboro, in addition to coastal Beaufort -- the percentage of registered voters without such ID exceeds 10 percent, according to the commission.
Opponents have argued for three years that the measure will suppress the vote of minorities, the elderly and the disabled. Securing even a free photo ID will be burdensome, especially for adults who lack the documents needed to secure one, including a birth certificate and social security card.
"They don't want people to vote. They want longer lines," said Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Columbia. "We are simply disenfranchising those who can least afford it."
Republicans have argued that people should be accustomed to showing a photo ID, because that's required whether cashing a check, buying cold medicine or boarding a plane. But Democrats countered those aren't constitutionally protected rights.