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EDITORIAL: Building better ID system for voting and life
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EDITORIAL: Building better ID system for voting and life

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Before there is a transfer of power after a contentious 2020 election, it’s safe to say that voting and voting rights will be issues again in the push toward midterm elections in 2022. In South Carolina there is no unanimity of opinion on voting laws, but there is at least a measure of stability.

South Carolina is a model for other states on voter identification in that it requires a photo ID but provides that no voter is to be denied the right to vote, with or without a photo ID.

A South Carolina voter at the polls must show a driver’s license, an ID card issued by the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles in lieu of a driver’s license, a South Carolina voter registration card that includes a photo, a federal military ID or a U.S. passport. Free photo IDs are available from the DMV or county voter registration offices.

If a voter does not have one of these IDs, he or she may vote a provisional ballot that will count if the person shows a photo ID to the election commission prior to certification of the election (usually Thursday or Friday after the election).

If a person cannot get a photo ID in time for the election, he or she may bring a non-photo voter registration card to the polling place and vote a provisional ballot after signing an affidavit stating he or she has a reasonable impediment to obtaining a photo ID. A reasonable impediment is considered any valid reason, beyond a person’s control, creating an obstacle to obtaining photo identification:

  • A disability or illness.
  • A conflict with a work schedule.
  • A lack of transportation.
  • Lack of a birth certificate.
  • Family responsibilities.
  • A religious objection to being photographed.

The ballot will count unless someone proves to the election commission that a person is lying about his or her identity or having the listed impediment.

South Carolina is protecting the right of those without a state-issued photo ID but at the same time is moving toward the ideal, which is every voter having such identification.

To further that objective nationally, a concept put forth by Andrew Young, former U.N. ambassador, congressman and mayor of Atlanta, and Martin Luther King III should get a fresh look. Called “No Voter Left Behind,” the idea was developed by Young and Norm Ornstein.

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At the LBJ Summit celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act on April 9, 2014, they proposed that the Social Security Administration by mail or at each of its roughly 1,300 offices be authorized and equipped to issue – at a citizen’s request – a Social Security card bearing the person’s photo.

A Social Security photo ID would be acceptable as voter ID in any state.

Young and proponents of the program say it would greatly alleviate concerns that voter ID laws disenfranchise otherwise eligible voters simply because they lack photo identification. It would also ensure uninterrupted voting rights if a citizen moves.

The concept makes sense since the Social Security card is the only form of ID to which every American citizen is already entitled. SSA employees are trained to assist citizens in establishing proof of identity and the agency even offers a hotline.

Compared to many programs, the price tag would be minimal. The estimated cost of providing the necessary equipment to each office is $2,000 — $2.5 million nationwide. The actual cost of producing the cards has been estimated at 8 cents each.

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In addition to fixed costs, a campaign to alert the public would also be required. The combined costs of these efforts, however, remain tiny as a budgeting matter compared to the benefits conferred — not to mention the costs of litigation surrounding voter IDs.

As an added benefit, photo-bearing Social Security cards would, according to law enforcement, significantly improve the integrity of the I-9 employee-verification process. It would be much harder for workers to use another person’s card.

In a broader societal context, the lack of photo ID is a serious burden on many citizens, especially low-income Americans. This would also address that problem.

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