A decision could come as early as Monday from the U.S. Justice Department on whether voters will have to show state or federal photographic identification for the first time when they vote in South Carolina elections.
Monday marks the end of a 60 day review period for the new law, said Chris Whitmire, spokesman for the state Election Commission. “We expect to hear something by Monday,” Whitmire said. That word could mean approval, rejection or that the Justice Department has more questions and will take more time to review the law. South Carolina’s history of voting rights violations require federal oversight of election law changes, including requiring voters to show photographic identification.
The new law requires voters to show a South Carolina driver’s license or state-issued ID card; a new state voter registration card with a photo; a federal military ID or a passport. People who lack those photo IDs will be able to cast a provisional ballot, but will have to produce the ID within three days for those votes to count.
Thirty states require an ID to vote and half of those require photo identification, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which is has asked the Justice Department to reject the law on South Carolina’s books since May.
Democrats and other groups have challenged the photo ID requirement, saying the new law will disenfranchise voters. State estimates show that 178,000 voters don’t have driver’s licenses and are currently registered to vote. Advocates say those affected are mostly elderly, black and have trouble getting state-issued identification and documentation.
On Friday, Senate Democratic Caucus members filed a protest to the new law with the Justice Department. Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Hartsville, said the state failed to put in failsafe protections that would make sure people have a chance to vote, including added early voting time and a change in how provisional ballots are handled when voters don’t have the required identification.