Analysis finds black precincts hit hardest by S.C. voter ID law



COLUMBIA — South Ca­ro­li­na’s new voter photo identification law appears to be hitting black precincts the hardest, according to an analysis by The Associated Press.

For instance, nearly half the voters who cast ballots at a historically black college in Columbia lack state-issued photo ID and could face problems voting in next year’s presidential election, according to the analysis of precinct-level data provided by the state Election Commis­sion.

The U.S. Justice Depart­ment has been reviewing the law for months under the federal Voting Rights Act.

The law requires people to show a South Carolina driver’s license or identification card, a military ID or passport when they vote. Without an ID, they can still cast a provisional ballot or vote absentee.

The analysis shows that among the state’s 2,134 precincts, there are 10 where nearly all of the law’s effect falls on nonwhite voters who don’t have a state-issued driver’s license or ID card, a total of 1,977 voters.

The same holds true for white voters in a number of precincts, but the overall effect is much more spread out and involves fewer total voters: There are 44 precincts where only white voters are affected, or 1,831 people in all.

The precinct that votes at Benedict College’s campus center has 2,790 voters, including nine white voters. In that precinct, 1,343 of the precinct’s nonwhite voters lack state ID, but only five white voters do. The former group accounts for 48 percent of the precinct’s voters.

Karen Rutherford, who has run voter registration efforts at the college for years, said students had a tough time in the 2008 election as their IDs were challenged at the precinct.

“A lot of the things they were doing were incorrect because they didn’t want our students to vote,” she said.

Rutherford, whose son serves in the Legislature, says students have a tough time getting copies of birth certificates the state requires for ID cards and that the law isn’t needed. Even supporters of the legislation could not point to an instance of someone using another person’s ID to vote twice.

A precinct at South Caro­lina State University has 2,305 active voters, including 33 white voters. There, 800 nonwhite voters and 17 white voters lack state IDs. More than a third of the voters in the precinct lack state photo identification.

State Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire said the results show the work ahead for the state.

“It means they would have to take some action to get proper ID,” Whitmire said.

They’ll still be able to vote absentee by mail, go to voter offices and get new voter registration cards with pictures or cast provisional ballots that require them to later produce the ID.

The state is offering free ID cards. To get those, people have to show documents that include their names, such as birth certificates, marriage or divorce records.