A voter who lacks a state-issued photo ID, or whose ID is expired, will not be able to cast a traditional vote on election days after the bill is officially enacted, following its review by the U.S. Dept. of Justice.
While many are attempting to challenge this measure before it goes into effect, there may still be a loophole, however – absentee voting by mail.
According to Chris Whitmire, Public Information Officer of the State Election Commission, currently registered voters can still apply for an absentee ballot, and without need to present an official identification. If a voter’s request for absentee is honored, his or her mail-in ballot will be accepted and counted with other election returns.
There are 11 different qualifications for absentee voting, including conflict with work schedule, any physical disability and simply being age 65 or older.
This method would allow the 178,000 currently at risk to cast their vote, and even without reapplication, Whitmire says.
“While (the SEC) will be required to submit a list of those voters (without current state-issued identification) at some point, it will not remove them from the list of registered voters,” he says. “For those already registered, they can apply for absentee voting without a picture ID.”
The only circumstance that would affect this absentee ballot option is if the voter had registered to vote by mail without copy of a photo ID, says Whitmire, and if that same voter had yet to vote in person. In such circumstances, a voter registering by this method is currently required to show picture ID the first time he or she votes.
This doesn’t appease the South Carolina Progressive Network, however, which is organizing a formal contest to the Voter ID law.
In fact, this loophole might not even remain by the time the Voter ID law is potentially enacted, says Becci Robbins, Communications Director at SC ProNet. “Just because they’re telling everybody this now doesn’t mean (the loophole) will still be there after (Dept. of Justice) review.”
To contest the act, which passed both houses of the State Assembly and was later signed by Gov. Haley on May 18, SC ProNet is collecting affidavits from affected voters to present to the U.S. Dept. of Justice.
Under the Voting Rights Act, South Carolina is one of nine states required to have federal approval prior to any change in voting laws. After application for “pre-clearance” of the state’s Voter ID proposal, DOJ is to allow 60 days for public comment prior to final ruling on its acceptance.
To contest the proposal, including on grounds it could amount to minority discrimination, Robbins says SC ProNet is collecting affidavits from voters who will be affected by the bill. (A video of one particular circumstance can be viewed here.)
“You have to have a birth certificate to get a photo ID,” reads the SC ProNet website, however “you must have a photo ID to get a birth certificate,” resulting in a Catch 22 of sorts.
And while the Voter ID proposal would provide new state-issued, non-driver’s license identification cards at no cost, it greatly overlooks the costs for needed documents and their acquisition, Robbin says. The fees to obtain necessary documentation for those IDs, such as a duplicate birth certificate, could range from $12 to over $1,000, SC ProNet states.
SC ProNet requests affected voters not accept this absentee vote loophole, and encourages those who may lose their right to vote under this new Voter ID bill to contact their office for inclusion in the affidavit it will file. Volunteers to aid in collection of affidavits are also requested.
SC ProNet can be contacted by telephone (803-808-3384) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Instructions to file request for absentee ballot by mail can be viewed at the SEC website.