Coming out of turbulent electoral contests in New Hampshire and Iowa, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton now have their sights set on South Carolina. But both campaigns face a potentially major roadblock: Some of their most loyal supporters may not be able to cast their votes. MSNBC reports that “confusion” over South Carolina’s new voter ID laws could keep thousands of citizens away from the polls. The new measure, which voting rights advocates claim was introduced in response to the record turnout among African Americans and Hispanics in the 2008 elections, requires voters to present an accepted form of photo identification unless they’re burdened by a “reasonable impediment,” like lack of transportation or family responsibilities. After a lengthy legal battle with the Department of Justice over whether the new measure constituted a disproportionate burden in the run-up to the 2012 elections, the law went into effect in 2013. But, according to the state, there are at least 178,000 primarily non-white South Carolinians who don’t carry any form of identification the law requires.
This poses an electoral challenge for the Clinton and Sanders campaigns looking to eke out every vote they can in the upcoming South Carolina and Nevada challenges. There’s been plenty of research to suggest voter ID restrictions work against poor citizens, many of whom can’t afford identification. A new working paper from political scientists at the University of California–San Diego that analyzed turnout between 2008 and 2012 found strict voter ID laws “consistently and significantly decreased turnout not just among traditionally Democratic-leaning groups, like blacks and Hispanics, but among Republican voters too,” the Washington Post reports.
There are at least 178,000 primarily non-white South Carolinians who don’t carry any form of identification the law requires.
A major instance of voter suppression would be catastrophic for the Clinton campaign. Barack Obama only managed to beat Hillary Clinton by 154,000 votes in the 2008 South Carolina primary, despite turnout among black voters surpassing 70 percent for the historic candidate. The surge of black voters who sent Obama to the White House aren’t necessarily a sure bet with the Clinton campaign, even if she mops up more than 80 percent of of African-American voters on February 27, as some polls would suggest. With Clinton and Sanders essentially tied among white voters, Clintons appeal to the black community, which stretches back to Bill’s first run in 1992, may not be the secret weapon Hillary can rely on to win the state.