Last year, the Florida legislature passed a bill enacting requirements for groups conducting voter registration drives so onerous that even the League of Women Voters were forced to pull out of the state. Sensible individuals would see this episode as a cautionary tale. South Carolina legislators view it instead as a how-to guide.
This week, the South Carolina House will consider HB 4549, a bill that mimics Florida’s changes to its voter registration laws. Among the changes contained in the bill is a new requirement that voter registration groups must submit registration applications within 48 hours of completion or face a fine of up to $1,000 per application. It has already been approved by the House Judiciary Committee and faces good prospects in the overall House, which Republicans control 76-48.
A similar 48-hour requirement is precisely what forced the League of Women Voters out of the Sunshine State. Now, the same could happen in South Carolina.
HB 4549 “would make it very difficult for the LWV to register voters in South Carolina,” Barbara Zia, co-president of the League of Women Voters of South Carolina told ThinkProgress. If it’s passed in its present form, Zia said, “the League could not afford the liability and risk that it would entail to continue registering voters in South Carolina.”
Voter registration drives disproportionately benefit minorities and low-income communities. Last election cycle, black voters were four times as likely as white voters to register via a registration drive.
South Carolina is already hurting in the voter turnout arena. In 2010, the state ranked just 36th in turnout. If the legislature succeeds in passing these new restrictions, that ranking will surely drop further.