When Delores Freelon was born in 1952, her mother could not decide on a name for her. So the space on the birth certificate for a first name was left blank. In the decades since, the incomplete birth certificate did not prevent Freelon from getting her driver’s license and voter registration card in the various states she has lived, including Texas and Louisiana.
But a measure — already passed by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Nikki Haley — will create new hurdles for Freelon and others to vote.
Delores Freelon, 59, who has voted since she was 18 years old, worries she wont’ be able to vote under the new photo ID law. Although she has a Social Security card, a Medicare card, and an expired Louisiana drivers license the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles will not issue her a S.C. drivers license or S.C. identification card because her first name is not on her birth certificate.
Called the Voter-ID bill, the measure will require all voters to present a picture ID at the polls, such as a passport, military ID card or a valid S.C. driver’s license. Without a complete birth certificate, Freelon and others like her cannot get an S.C. driver’s license.
“I’ve always voted, and I hate to think that I may lose the right. It’s going to be unfair to a whole lot of people who are like me,” Freelon said. “We’re going to lose our voting rights over a technicality.”
The S.C. Progressive Network, the Legislative Black Caucus and other groups are launching an effort to stop the implementation of the new law, which must first gain approval from the U.S. Justice Department. Because of South Carolina’s history of voter discrimination, any changes to its voting laws must be approved by the federal agency.
About 178,000 S.C. voters do not have photo IDS, according to 2010 Election Commission data, and will be affected by the change. During a Friday press conference, the groups encouraged South Carolinians who may lose the right to vote to step forward and help build a case against the bill.