In 2011, the South Carolina General assembly passed sweeping changes to the state’s voting laws. The biggest change was to require voters to show a photo ID before they could cast a ballot. Proponents of the voter ID law said it was necessary to prevent voter fraud, although examples of in-person voter impersonation are rare. Critics of the change say it is an attempt on behalf of Republicans to suppress the votes of the poor and minorities, who often vote Democratic.
There is some merit to the law. There needs to be a way of insuring the person voting is actually the person registered to vote. But somewhere along the line, the logic of the system has broken down, and communication to local elections officials has been lacking. There result has been to create some unintended consequences.
Here is what happened to me.
I showed up at polling place to vote on a school bond referendum. I have voted at the precinct for 22 years. I had my voter registration card and my driver’s license.
I was refused a ballot when the poll worker discovered my license had expired. (This is probably the only good thing to come out of this whole episode. I didn’t realize it had expired and went the next business day to get it renewed.)
The law does state specifically it has to be a “valid and current” driver’s license. The law also allows for other form of ID from the Department of Motor Vehicles, passport, military ID, or an ID provided by the local elections office.
There I was, a registered voter with a picture ID proving I was who I said I was. The fact that license had expired is irrelevant. A non-expired license would tell elections nothing more than the expired license did.
The only option I was given was to take my voter registration card to the elections office 15 miles away. They would photograph me and the registration for a valid ID. I wasn’t told I could use my passport, or that I could cast a provisional ballot and bring a valid ID to the voting office before the election results were certified.
Now, here is another problem. I would have had to show no form of identification other than my voter registration card in order to get the valid ID from the elections office. I would be issued an ID by providing even less information than I was showing at the polling place.
These two problems defy logic. The purpose of the voter ID law is to determine true identity, not legality to drive. And being able to get a valid ID with no form of identification creates a loophole that any fraudster could exploit.
I did not have the time to make a 30-mile roundtrip. So I didn’t vote.
I have voted in almost every election in my precinct, from presidential contests down to single-issue school bonds. I was turned away because of a law designed to make elections more trustworthy.
I find it ironic and frustrating that this new system found me to be the kind of person who shouldn’t vote.