Thursday, March 14, 2013

SC-1 elections officials prep for first major test of voter ID law

New rules prompt adjustments by local boards

Posted by Sam Spence on Thu, Mar 14, 2013 at 5:01 PM

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  • State Election Commission
The 18-candidate special primary set for Tuesday will be the state's first large-scale use of new voter ID laws adopted by lawmakers last year, but which were held for implementation by the U.S. Justice Department until the start of 2013.

Despite initial fears that the new rules would bar voters without photo identification from casting their ballots, federal Justice Department stipulations stripped some of the hard-lined provisions from the law, making it more palatable to its critics. Voters with a standard non-photo registration card on election day who weren't able to obtain a photo ID due to a "reasonable impediment" will still be able to cast a provisional ballot after signing an affidavit. The state election commission lists exceptions like religious objections to photos, work or illness conflicts, and lack of a birth certificate as a "reasonable impediment."

However, local voting officials are still taking steps to make sure the new rules won't cause any hiccups come election day.

Since the adoption of the law, the state election commission has been partnering with local boards of elections to proactively visit rural or isolated localities in an attempt to assist voters to apply for photo ID cards. Though the state has generated around 1,100 ID cards in response to the new rules, only 142 have been issued in Charleston County.

Charleston County Board of Elections is also charged with staffing the 103 voting locations it operates with poll workers. New rules means new training for all 500+ workers set to man the 70 1st District polling places on Tuesday. Instead of its standard online poll worker training, Charleston County Board of Elections Executive Director Joe Dabney says the county has instead required all workers meet in-person to be briefed on the new voter ID law. The county is also opting to only use veteran poll workers for the special election in an effort to insure efficiency.

County election officials are also already preparing for a probable April 2 Republican primary runoff, assuming none of the 16 GOP candidates can earn 50% of the votes on the initial ballot.

For more on the new voter ID rules, visit scvotes.org.

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