I got an email early this morning from John Schafer, who reported that when he asked the poll workers at his Spring Hill precinct in the Richland County portion of Irmo what happened if he didn’t have a photo ID, “The two ladies said, simultaneously, ‘Then you can’t vote.’ ” He continued: “Since I was the only voter in the poll at the time, I let them expand on their answer before I corrected them and they eventually got around to the provisional ballot. I politely told them I had my ID, but I was quizzing them. They told me they were only responding as they were trained. The precinct manager was nowhere in sight, so I did not have a chance to talk with him.” Mr. Shafer had also contacted me two weeks ago to report a similar encounter, and I had heard similar stories from others since South Carolina’s photo ID law took effect last year, so I decided to conduct my own test when I went to the Meadowfield precinct near the VA hospital to vote for Molly Spearman and Henry McMaster.
“What if I don’t have a photo ID?” I asked when one of the poll workers asked for it. “Ooh, that’s not good,” she replied. “What happens?” I asked again. “You need a photo ID,” she said. “But what if I don’t have one?” I asked. “You can still vote,” she said, and she and the other two women working at the precinct traded off explaining, fairly accurately, the law.
Which is this: If you simply forgot to bring a photo ID, you can still cast a provisional paper ballot, but then you have to take your photo ID to the county election office if you want your vote to count — which strikes me as a lot more of a hassle, particularly on a day like today, when at 8:30 in the morning, I cast the 26th GOP ballot of the day, than simply going home and getting the correct ID and returning to vote regularly.
But if you don’t own a photo ID, you can cast a regular ballot. They were a little fuzzy on what happened next, and I saved them by telling them I was just testing them.