But even though she doesn’t fit into any one of those groups of people about to lose their voting rights, “Alice” found out the hard way how a new state law could disenfranchise even more voters.
The new “Voter ID” law recently passed by state legislature quickly received protest, and because of the 178,000 currently registered voters who’ll be disenfranchised by its terms. Without a South Carolina-issued identification card, or if bearing one that’s expired, those already-registered voters will not be allowed to partake in the next election day.
As Alice directly learned last week, though, new and returning residents to the state could have a hill to climb, too, and because of difficulties everyone can have in getting a driver’s license to begin with.
After recently settling into a South Carolina home, she arrived at the Dept. of Motor Vehicles’ office in North Charleston for a new license, using the one from her last residence in North Carolina as identification.
In full preparation for any bureaucratic difficulties, she brought her passport and Social Security card carrying the same name as the NC ID. She even had a recent bank statement and a new South Carolina vehicle registration, too, both of which list her current address in Dorchester County.
And DMV already had records of Alice, who held a South Carolina driver’s license for almost 20 years before moving briefly to Charlotte.
But the DMV told her those ample records weren’t enough. Even a military ID (she’s a four-year Army vet) wouldn’t suffice.
“Alice,” who declined to use her real name (“...I’ve had enough of this already,” she says), was told those documents were insufficient, and that she had to provide her birth certificate, instead.
And that’s where the true problems began for the 38-year-old Summerville native, who just moved back to her home state from Charlotte last December.
At age 16, Alice was adopted by her step-father. Because the South Carolina birth certificate she provided lists a different surname, the DMV office in North Charleston refused to accept it as valid.
“The Social Security number on my card is the same as the one listed on my birth certificate!” Alice pointed out. But that argument didn’t work for her, either.
Not wanting to risk driving with a soon-to-expire license, Alice had to search through legal records at her parents’ home. She returned to the same DMV office, this time armed with court records and with her mother, too – but Alice was again challenged.
The documents didn’t seem valid, she was told by DMV staff. And that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
“My daughter became very upset and apologized to the clerk before she cussed her out,” tells Alice’s mom, “Jane” (whose real also can’t be used in order to protect “Alice’s” request for anonymity).
Jane still can’t believe the circumstance actually happened. “Can you imagine someone going to the DMV to acquire a state-issued ID and going through this hassle?”
Alice sure couldn’t imagine it. And that’s what she began to say to the DMV clerk, who eventually gave in and let Alice have her license. “’I didn’t say it wasn’t valid,’” Alice says the clerk harrumphed in response. “’I just don’t it think it looks valid,’ she said.”
Even though it was finally resolved, the mother and daughter are even more upset about the problems at risk to occur for others of already-established alienation by the Voter ID law.
“If this is the hassle that is presented to a young person when trying to renew a previously-issued South Carolina license, can you imagine what an elderly person, who could have no idea where any paperwork is, will have to go through?” Jane says. “Especially if all they have is a utility bill with their name and current address on it?
“Do you know how many (voters) will walk away?” Jane wonders.
The problems Jane allude to are well on their way, too. The South Carolina Progressive Network has been compiling complaints of registered voters who are having a difficult time getting new identification cards from the state.
South Carolina native Larry Butler, a senior citizen and registered voter, was denied driver’s license renewal this year. After providing a wealth of requested documentation, including birth certificate and school records, Butler was still denied license renewal. Butler was born in a rural part of the state that didn’t provide birth certificates with a state seal. His records from South Carolina schools weren’t accepted because of their absence of records from a long-closed elementary school. Butler also states his legal name is being challenged; DMV said his surname should be Darby, Butler says.
Delores Freelon is a South Carolina native who recently moved back to her home state two years ago. She quickly registered to vote upon her return in 2009, too. But today the state won’t give Freelon a driver’s license. The ID from her former state of residence, Louisiana, is insufficient, she was told. So is the state Medicaid card in her name. Her South Carolina birth certificate was refused, too; her parents were immediately undecided on her first name, so only “baby girl” was listed on the official document, a common practice in state records at that time.
Even though state IDs are to be provided for free to those 178,000 registered voters currently without, the state legislature failed to recognize the costs of acquiring the needed documentation. For example, Butler’s case can cost up to $1,000 in corrections before he’ll acquire an ID, says SC Pro Net.
The governor’s office is also falling short on promises to aid those without current identification, too. In July, Gov. Haley told media “I will go take them to the DMV myself and help them get that picture ID.”
But when senior Robert Tucker did just that, the governor’s office didn’t know what he was talking about, he says, and declined to help.
Even a member of a county election commission was caught in the “Catch 22,” Jane says, telling her friend’s story of being denied a birth certificate copy without a state identification card, and then being denied a state identification card without a birth certificate.
“If people wait until it’s close to the 30-day deadline before election day to register to vote, it will be too late, because some will have to jump through hoops to prove who they are,” Jane says.
Haley breaks promise to aid Voter ID progress
Voter ID at the DMV in Wisconsin (and what it could mean in South Carolina)
Potential loophole to Voter ID, but challenge still needed, says SC ProNet
Colbert Report on Voter ID laws