COLUMBIA — South Carolina Senate Democrats said Friday they’ve asked the U.S. Justice Department to reject a new state law requiring voters to show government-issued photo identification before they vote.
The protest by the Senate Minority Caucus comes days before the Justice Department could release a decision on whether the agency will allow the law to go into effect.
Democrats call the new law the nation’s most restrictive in a state where blacks voted in equal percentages to whites for the first time in 2008.
The law stands to disenfranchise black and elderly voters, said state Sen. Gerald Malloy, a Hartsville Democrat
The law requires voters to show a South Carolina driver’s license or state-issued ID card, a new state voter registration card with a photo, a federal military ID or a passport. People who lack those photo IDs will be able to cast a provisional ballot but will have to produce the ID within three days for those votes to count.
The law is tougher than other states’ because it requires a valid and current ID, Malloy said. That means people who haven’t paid a ticket and had a license suspended wouldn’t be able to use a driver’s license to prove who they are at the polling place, he said.
Republicans pushed the legislation and said requiring photo ID was necessary to prevent fraud voting fraud. Opponents cite state statistics that show as many as 178,000 people who now vote – particularly elderly and black votes – don’t have the required identification and might not have their votes counted.
State election officials said registered voters can cast absentee ballots by mail without photo IDs.
However, Malloy said the state limits those voters to 17 reasons for not being able to show up at the polls in person. He said legislators should have broadened the absentee voting law.