The U.S. Justice Department waited until its deadline to act on the state law signed in June. Under the 1965 Voting Rights Act, South Carolina must receive the federal agency’s approval for any election law change.
The law, passed unanimously by the Legislature, removes several steps from the paper registration process. Supporters say the online option will help voters, improve the accuracy of voter rolls and save money.
South Carolina is the 13th state to implement online voter registration. The system was available by Tuesday afternoon through a link on the state Election Commission Web site.
People who want to vote Nov. 6 can register through Saturday. State law requires registration at least 31 days before an election.
“South Carolina has made important improvements to our registration and elections process in the last decade, and we are proud to announce one of the single most important changes to the process is now a reality,” said Marci Andino, the executive director of the State Election Commission.
The online system requires a driver’s license or Department of Motor Vehicles identification card number because information is checked through the DMV database. Voters can receive their registration card in the mail in as little as a day, Whitmire said.
The online registration law is separate from the voter ID law that the Justice Department has blocked.
That law requires voters to show government-issued photo identification at the polls, such as a driver’s license or DMV card, which residents could obtain for free. The Justice Department said the law would disenfranchise minority voters. Both sides are awaiting a ruling in federal court.
Last week, the Rev. Al Sharpton criticized the voter ID law at a voting-rights rally in Columbia, calling it a modern-day barrier to keep blacks from voting.
Gov. Nikki Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, said she will continue to fight for the law.
“As a minority female, I continue to be disgusted and offended at the fact they think minorities don’t know how to go take a picture,” she said Tuesday. “This state and this country deserve the right to keep the integrity of the voter process. … So until they show me any sort of reason why they think minorities are unable, physically unable to go and do what any white person can do, I’m sorry, I’m going to continue to be offended.”