On behalf of the League of Women Voters, I write in strong opposition to Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 3003, which would require voters to obtain and show a valid government-issued photo ID when they exercise their constitutional right to vote.
It's uncertain what the price tag will be for implementation of this legislation and the legal challenges that will likely follow. Squandering precious taxpayer dollars to pay for voter photo ID when our state has effective identification procedures already in place and not one prosecuted case of voter impersonation, will be seen by voters for what it really is - politics as usual at a time when we are cutting essential state government services.
Photo ID requirements are one of the most serious threats in decades to our efforts to ensure the right of every eligible American to vote. Research shows that they encourage racial and ethnic discrimination at polling places, prevent eligible voters from participating in our democracy and limit turnout.
These requirements would potentially disenfranchise tens of thousands of registered voters without a valid photo ID and thousands of college students who want to vote locally. Who are these S.C. voters with no valid photo ID? More than 27 percent are 65 and older; 26 percent are 45-64 years of age; 36 percent are minorities; 64 percent are white; many have disabilities; and almost all live in poor, rural areas with little or no access to public transportation.
The burden will be greatest for citizens for whom it is most cost-prohibitive or inconvenient to take off work, get transportation, stand in line and apply for documentation. Often these individuals don't have the underlying documentation that is needed to get an ID. Thus, this requirement would disenfranchise the very people who currently must work the hardest to vote.
Our state governments should be in the business of making it easier for citizens to vote, as our neighboring states have done, not adding costly restrictions and hassles that will negatively impact all voters.
The writer is president of the League of Women Voters of South Carolina.