by Sam Spence
Voters going to the polls next month won't have to make sure grandma brings her driver's license to be able to step into a voting booth, according to a federal ruling which upheld much of the state's new voter ID laws, but that could change soon, pending a legal appeal.
On Wednesday, a three-judge federal panel approved the state's new voter ID law, which requires voters to present a government-issued photo ID when going to vote, but ruled that it won't take effect until 2013, which means this year's presidential election will go off without the new rules in place.
The 2011 law, as spearheaded by Republicans in the state legislature, requires all voters to bring state-issued photo identification to be able to prove they're actually who they say they are when they go vote. Voter ID laws across the country have been viewed by their critics as political tactics to suppress voting by those who may not have the means or money to obtain the required photo ID. However, by the time South Carolina's law made it to the federal panel for its latest review, several key provisions had been whittled down from their initial proposals, prompting some to dismiss the law's approval as meaningless.
Regardless, Republican leaders took the opportunity today to celebrate a major legislative victory, with Gov. Nikki Haley lamenting the fact that the law won't take effect this year, but concluding, "a win is a win is a win." State Attorney General Alan Wilson said the law's approval was validation for the process that S.C. legislators put in place as a result of the fierce debate over voter ID, which Democrats fought in both houses of the General Assembly.
State Democratic Chair Dick Harpootlian said he was "disappointed" in the panel's ruling, remaining hopeful that an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court will result in the law being overruled, and criticizing GOP lawmakers for spending "millions in taxpayer funds on this cure in search of a disease."
Regardless of the appeal's result, if the law is enacted as approved, voters without identification will still be able to cast their ballots after completing a signed affidavit reviewed by a notary or poll worker present at the voting location, a key concession made as the law wound its way through the court system after being approved by the state legislature.