Cover Story: SC voting - photo ID required?

By Jeff Atkinson - bio l email

ROCK HILL, SC (WBTV) - South Carolina's House of Representatives wants every voter to show a picture I-D.  On Wednesday, they sent a bill to the Senate that would require it.

Supporters say it will prevent fraud--opponents fear changing the laws that finally granted all Americans the right to vote.

Since the Civil Rights legislation in the 60s--new technology, a spike in ID theft and illegal immigration have added new challenges to holding an honest election.

But fixes like this worry people who fought for Civil Rights legislation.

You have to have a photo ID to cash a check.  Board an airplane.  Even get cold medicine.

Now the Republican majority in the South Carolina House of Representatives believes-- having a photo ID ought to apply on Election Day as well.

"I think there are just too many people who can't be identified. You don't know who they are and where they're from. It's a good idea I think," says voter Ellie Mino.

But voter ID laws raise ugly memories of America's past.  Poll taxes, literacy tests and other barriers were once used to discourage blacks from voting.

Critics contend requiring a photo ID is a thinly-veiled attempt to keep people who don't have one.. who tend to be poor, disabled or elderly and tend to vote Democrat.. away from the polls.

Last year in Columbia-- Democrats in the Legislative Black Caucus walked out in protest over the plan.

"To be able to freely participate in the electoral process.. not your way but the highway."

The drive to require a photo ID to vote is gaining steam.

These states now require it:  Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, South Dakota.. still a handful.

But since 2001-- more than 700 bills have been introduced in a total of 46 states.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that passing voter ID requirements does not disenfranchise voters.

"I would be a jump ahead of you. I would think and been thinking for a lot time that we need a national ID card. Be required," said voter Rudd Ross.

At Rock Hill's Chandler Place Retirement Community where you'd expect to find opposition.. public opinion is running solidly behind it.

"It should not prevent anyone from voting," says Martha Faris.

Ellie Mino doesn't drive.. but she has a DMV-issued photo ID just so she can vote.  Under the bill being considered-- South Carolina would issue photo IDs to anyone over 17 for free.

She said, "They can always get an ID from the Motor Vehicle Bureau.. if they really want one that badly."

South Carolinians go to the polls in four weeks... this bill if it goes through (which is not guaranteed).. it would not affect the June 8th primary election.

Elections officials say there has been no widespread voter fraud reported in South Carolina.

It's estimated about 180-thousand registered voters in the Palmetto State do not have a photo ID.

The bill is far from final passage.

Copyright 2010 WBTV. All rights reserved.