Free rides to DMV don't solve larger problem of voter ID law

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - After much controversy, the state of South Carolina will take steps Wednesday to help some voters get those new photo ID cards they'll need for upcoming elections. Twenty DMV offices statewide will pick up and return passengers.

Supporters of the state's new photo ID law, mostly Republicans, said the voting process needed new protection against the possibility of voter fraud. After Gov. Nikki Haley signed the law, she tried to defend it against critics who see it as an attempt to discourage groups that tend to vote for Democrats.

"We have studied this issue," said Carole Cato of the state's League of Women Voters. "We have delved into it. We cannot find one documented case of voter impersonation."

The state's response is to give free rides to and from DMV offices for anyone with the documentation needed to obtain the new cards. The agency has set Wednesday aside to provide the shuttle service, though DMV officials said only 25 people statewide will actually take part.

The rides and the photo IDs that result will barely dent a larger problem, 178,000 voters who will still lack the cards, and quite often don't have birth certificates or other paperwork necessary to get them.

"These people are probably not as plugged in as many others, they may not be watching cable news or even television or read the newspaper, but they're voting," said Brett Bursey of the SC Progressive Network.

Cato says there is a little-discussed provision in the law allowing voter registration offices to get camera equipment needed to create photo IDs. That could make it easier for registered voters to get photo ID's.

"If you read the law as it's now written, it's perfectly legitimate," said Cato. "If you can register, the chances are then you will be able to vote in South Carolina. And we're encouraging every person 18 and older who is an eligible voter to get registered."

Cato says the League is concerned lawmakers might try to eliminate that loophole in the next session.

It's still not clear whether the new photo ID law will pass muster with the U.S. Justice Department or whether the law will actually be a factor in fall 2012, when the nation chooses a new president.