March 11, 2013 North Myrtle Beach, SC – Tomorrow’s election for the Chair of the Horry County Council will usher in a new voter requirement in South Carolina – photo identification. While thirty other states require voters to show some form of official identification, South Carolina’s route to requiring a photo identification has a storied past.
Governor Nikki Haley signed the South Carolina voter ID law on May 18, 2011. The law requires that all of South Carolina’s registered voters present some form of a photo ID at the voting polls. The forms of photo ID that are accepted include a driver’s license or DMV-provided ID, a passport, a military ID, or a special voter ID card. Student ID’s or any other photo ID will not be accepted.
Under section 5 of the Voters Rights Act of 1965, South Carolina is one of the states that have to obtain approval from the Department of Justice for any changes in voting requirements. In December of 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice rejected the South Carolina. The department blocked the law based on concerns it would hurt the ability of people of color to cast a ballot.
In a letter announcing the rejection, the Justice Department said the new law could possibly harm the right to vote of tens of thousands, noting that just over one-third of people of color who are registered voters did not have a driver's license needed to cast a ballot.
In February, 2012 the state of South Carolina filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the Justice Department's blocking of the voter identification law. The case was not heard until August, 2012 and the Federal Court did not make a decision until October, 2012. The court ruled for South Carolina's voter ID law, but delayed implementation until 2013.
The first big test of the photo identification will come this month when, not only will Horry County voters go to the poll, but several primaries are being held throughout the state.
Polls will be open tomorrow, March 12, 2013 from 7 AM to 7 PM and those already in line when polls close will be allowed to vote to select the next Horry County Council Chair.
The five Republican candidates for the office are current county councilman, Al Allen, former councilwoman and council chair, Liz Gilland, local businesswoman and radio personality, Debbie Harwell, former councilman and local businessman Mark Lazarus and businessman Fonzie Lewis. There are no Democrat or other candidates for the office.