SC voter ID law spurs League of Women Voters to act

The League of Women Voters of South Carolina has been concerned about the state’s photo voter ID bill since it appeared in the General Assembly, but it was not until Gov. Nikki Haley signed the bill into law May 18 that the league acted.

The league is a defendant in South Carolina’s lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice, supporting the federal government’s claim that the law will negatively impact
voters.

“The league believes that voting is a fundamental right, and the government depends on
all citizens being informed,” said Barbara Zia, president of the South Carolina League of Women Voters. “We feel, and we have made this case to the court, that [our] mission of engaging citizens in our democracy would be impacted if this law were [upheld].”

The case will be argued in September before by a federal court in Washington, D.C, but
Zia said her group is encouraging residents to obtain a photo ID, just in case.

“This barrage of legislative measures to restrict voting will definitely have an impact
on voter access and we feel government should be in the business of increasing citizen
participation in our nation’s democratic process, rather than decreases,” she said. “We
don’t want to go back to the old days we remember in the South of voting restrictions.

“This is a step backwards.”

By Caitlin O’Donnell, News21

Raymond Rutherford: Midwife’s error creates voting rights uncertainty

For years, Raymond Rutherford used for official identification a photo ID card issued in 1979 by a Sumter, S.C., discount liquor store.

When Rutherford recently sought to comply with a new South Carolina law that requires a government-issued ID to register to vote, he found that the state would not accept his store-issued ID. He had to show his Social Security card to get a government-issued ID. The problem is that card carries the birth certificate error made by the midwife who delivered him. It incorrectly identified him as Ramon Croskey. The midwife forgot his mother’s married name, he said.

Rutherford’s birth certificate, errors and all, was used when he applied for a Social Security card.

Rutherford described his situation in stark terms. He compared the issue of voter IDs in South Carolina to that of slaves who were beholden to white masters for their identity.

“[They] couldn’t do anything unless their master signed for it,” he said. “They didn’t have
proof what their name was, so they took whatever name their master gave them. It seems
to me they’re trying to send us years back, where they can control who we vote for.”

Rutherford is still working to obtain an ID so he can vote in the November election if the South Carolina voter ID law is upheld in federal court. A ruling could come in
early September.

By Caitlin O’Donnell, News21

John Osborne: Voting worth effort to obtain a photo ID

John Osborne is the chairman of the Charleston, S.C., Chamber of Commerce. Photo by Caitlin O'Donnell/News21

John Osborne, chairman of the Charleston, S.C., Chamber of Commerce and chairman of the Charleston Young Professionals, said while the South Carolina voter ID measure does not often come up in his conversations, he has made the effort to educate himself about the issue.

Citing the steps necessary to obtain a photo ID, Osborne said he sees the process as relatively easy. He does not know anyone who doesn’t already have a photo ID card, he said.

“If you care about casting your ballot and exercising your right to vote, you’ll take the 30 minutes to get it done,” Osborne said.

By Caitlin O’Donnell, News21

Victoria Middleton: South Carolina law targets elderly, rural residents

Victoria Middleton is the South Carolina ACLU executive director. Photo by Caitlin O'Donnell/News21

The state ACLU has intervened in the voter ID lawsuit South Carolina v. Holder, claiming that requiring photo ID places an unnecessary burden on voters, primarily African Americans, elderly and low-income residents.

Victoria Middleton, executive director of the South Carolina ACLU, described voter ID as a solution in search of a problem. Requiring an ID addresses the problem of voter impersonation, which Middleton said is a non-issue.

“Voter impersonation is not a problem in our state, and state election commissioners will tell you that,” she said. “Instead, we’re spending money and, more importantly, disenfranchising a lot of voters through this measure.”

State and federal judges might not be able to comprehend the plight of the rural, elderly voters who would be hurt most by this act, Middleton said.

By Caitlin O’Donnell, News21

South Carolina women recall the struggle to obtain photo IDs

The state is locked in a federal court battle with the U.S. Department of Justice over the South Carolina voter ID law, which would require voters to present government-issued photo identification at the polls.

Four South Carolina women shared their experiences in obtaining the necessary documents to apply for photo identification.

Brenda Williams displays her father’s 1961 NAACP membership card. Photo by Caitlin O'Donnell/News21

Brenda Williams

Brenda Williams carries in her wallet her father’s NAACP card – a constant
reminder that, 51 years after it was issued for a $2 membership fee, the fight for equal
access to the polls continues.

For three decades, Williams and her husband, Joe, have helped register voters in Sumter, S.C. She estimates she has spent thousands of dollars and countless hours assisting low-income voters – the majority of whom are African-American – obtain the necessary documents to gain a government-issued photo ID.

 

Donna Dubose, a Sumter resident, lived most of her life with an incorrect birth certificate. Photo by Caitlin O'Donnell/News21

Donna Dubose

Many elderly voters in rural South Carolina were delivered by midwives who were not bound by state regulation when recording births.

Donna Dubose, a Sumter resident, was listed as “Baby Girl Kennedy” on her birth certificate until this year, when she obtained a corrected document, with the help of a local judge.

“Man makes wonders, but God works miracles and when he makes miracles, you don’t even know how to take it,” she said, describing her effort to obtain the
documents.

 

 

Naomi Gordon's name was misspelled on her birth certificate. Photo by Caitlin O'Donnell/News21

Naomi Gordon

Naomi Gordon also fell victim to a midwife’s mistake. On her South Carolina birth certificate, her first name is spelled Lnnoi. She worked independently for years to correct her birth certificate and obtain a photo ID, until she could no longer afford it and sought help from Brenda Williams. A lifelong voter, Gordon said the sudden obstacle is disheartening.

“Sometimes it’s hurting because you have that right and all of a sudden all this is coming
about,” she said.

Thelma Hodge spent five years trying to obtain a birth certificate. Photo by Caitlin O'Donnell/News21

Thelma Hodge

After five years of obstacles, Thelma Hodge just recently received a copy of her birth
certificate. Hodge estimated that she spent at least $1,000 for it.

Hodge felt that a weight has been lifted from her shoulders, she said, and she now feels like a real person with an unquestioned identity.

“When you don’t have those things as a person, it makes you feel left out when other people have theirs,” she said. “It feels real good.”

By Caitlin O’Donnell, News21