Governor Nikki Haley (R-SC) is expected to soon sign a Voter ID bill passed by both chambers of the South Carolina Legislature. When she does, South Carolina will become the second state in the country to pass such legislation this year, although Voter ID bills are being considered by GOP-led state legislatures nationwide. According to the ACLU, “nearly 180,000 voters in South Carolina – most of whom are elderly, student, minority or low-income voters – will be disenfranchised as a result of this discriminatory bill.” The NAACP adds that it “immediately disenfranchises eight percent of registered voters in the state.”
But while the new law will be very bad for the voting rights of minority groups, it’s already been very good for one person: the man who proposed it. State Rep. Alan Clemmons (R) received the South Carolina Republican Party Legislator of the Year Award this week for his role writing and sponsoring a bill that will kick thousands of South Carolinians off the voter rolls:
Regarding the Voter ID Bill, Clemmons says, “Voting is a special American right. We have a duty to protect that right and to prevent Chicago-style election fraud. By requiring photo-identification to vote we are insuring the credibility of elections and instilling faith in a process designed to detect and prevent abuse. … I‘m humbled by the title ‘Legislator of the Year’, but I’m grateful that it has been presented at such a pivotal time in the legislative progress of the Voter ID Bill so as to reinforce the SC Senate’s determination to cast that final vote to make Voter ID the law of South Carolina!“
The prize is one of the state’s top distinctions and is presented to one elected official each year “for dedication and conspicuous service.” Clemmons, Chairman of the House Election Law Subcommittee, has led the charge for a Voter ID law in South Carolina for the past three years. His attempts had been successfully blocked until this session. But now, with victory finally in sight, Clemmons’ relentless efforts to make voting more difficult for people who tend to vote Democrat are at last being recognized and commended by his colleagues:
“Representative Clemmons has been instrumental in securing the integrity of our voting process and ensuring clean elections by helping to move the Voter ID Bill through the South Carolina House of Representatives, and for that I am grateful,” said Karen Floyd, the outgoing Chairwoman of the South Carolina Republican Party.
The allegation of widespread voter fraud is, of course, a Republican myth. An exhaustive investigation of voter fraud during the Bush administration turned up only 38 cases nationally between October 2002 and September 2005 — of which only 13 resulted in convictions. One editorial in a South Carolina newspaper called voter fraud “the phantom menace,” and pointed out the law requiring all voters to present ID at the polls will cost over $1 million to implement at a time when unemployment in the state is still well above the national average. Governor Haley and House members also insisted on passing a “clean” version of the bill that will not allow early voting in the state, which, as one paper put it, “shows a partisan bias.”
When South Carolina Republicans tried to push through a Voter ID bill last year, state Sen. John Matthews (D) pointed out that the proposal was all about keeping blacks from the polls, reviving painful memories of South Carolina’s checkered racial history. “I operate from history, and my history tells me it’s more to this than is being presented — that we are trying to fix a problem where there is no problem,” Matthews said.