When Republican Gov. Nikki Haley strode out to the podium as The Black Eyed Peas song “I Gotta Feeling” pumped through a PA system in the background and her entourage began a slow, rolling clap, clap, clap before she sat down to sign perhaps one of the strictest voter ID laws in the nation, it certainly raised some eyebrows in the packed State House lobby.
“They are disenfranchising voters to The Black Eyed Peas?” asked Orangeburg Democratic Rep. Bakari Sellers as he looked on. “Who does that?”
Sumter Democratic Rep. David Weeks had a more direct reaction.
“This is a terrible day for South Carolina,” he said during a news conference immediately after the May 18 bill signing. “I heard the Black Eyed Peas music when it first came up. That was very appropriate because our citizens have been given a black eye today.”
The legislation Haley signed into law requires that all voters show a valid and current photo ID at the polls. It’s part of a national effort that gained traction among state legislatures after the election of America’s first black president, Democrat Barack Obama, in 2008.
The Palmetto State had the second-highest increase in voter turnout in the country for the 2008 presidential election, and black voters led that surge, according to research by the Durham, N.C.-based Institute for Southern Studies.
… Because of a haunted history of racism in the state, South Carolina needs pre-clearance by the federal agency before any changes can be made to its election laws.
“I think that we can produce evidence to the Justice Department that South Carolina’s law, unlike the laws in other pre-clearance states, is much more restrictive,” said South Carolina Progressive Network director Brett Bursey.
Others argue the law will hurt poorer voters who don’t have or need a photo ID. Going through the process of obtaining one, critics say, is tantamount to a poll tax.