South Carolina Voter ID bill discourages voter participation

by Quentin James, NAACP National Board of Directors

As one of its final items of business for the 2010 legislative session, the South Carolina House of Representatives this week passed a bill requiring photo identification to vote. Similar to bills passed in states like Ohio, we know this type of legislation discourages voting in communities of color and for youth. As the world continues to get more flat and new technologies allow for beneficial improvements to our way of life, our states need to better utilize technology instead of adding additional requirements.

According to the South Carolina State Elections Commission, "roughly 180,000 of South Carolina's registered voters have neither a state-issued driver's license nor photo ID." Although the bill waives the five dollar fee for a state ID for residents older than 17, it immediately disenfranchises eight percent of registered voters in the state, not including those newly- registered individuals. In 2008, South Carolina had a record 76% voter turnout. Notwithstanding, 2010 is a midterm election year and most voters tend to stay home anyway. With the newly disenfranchised, South Carolina election workers can expect a slow crowd at the polls to say the least.

Voting is not a Republican or Democratic issue, but rather one of integrity. The question we are faced with in South Carolina and other states throughout this great country is will we remain true to our American values? While the right to vote has always had to be extended to additional populations, we are almost at a point of true enfranchisement of all Americans. As the Tea Party says, "I want my country back!" These types of legislation further show our current disconnect to ensuring a democratic society flourishes.