Advocates for the poor and minorities said Wednesday that a proposal to put new requirements on groups that register voters represents a bid to suppress voting among those most likely to vote for Democrats. But the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Alan Clemmons, contends it’s about holding third-party groups accountable for properly handling a person’s right to vote and applies to all groups spanning the political spectrum. The House measure requires any group that conducts voter registration drives to register with the state Elections Commission and turn in voters’ forms within five days of signing them up. Fines for not turning them in start at $50. Intentional violations would bring a maximum fine of $1,000. All employees and volunteers participating in voter drives must sign a statement swearing they will uphold state election laws.
Clemmons, R-Myrtle Beach, said the measure’s about preventing fraud, though he acknowledges no glaring example prompted its drafting. “This is an across-the-board fair bill aimed at providing accountability and transparency for those entrusted with one of our most sacred rights,” he said.
Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire said the vast majority of people conducting voter registration drives perform a great service, but the agency does occasionally find that forms aren’t turned over. He said it’s “not uncommon” to get complaints from residents who signed up during a drive, and thought they could vote, but were turned away at the polls. The law is estimated to cost his agency $20,000 for computer upgrades. Floor debate, expected Wednesday, was postponed for two weeks.