As a federal court considers whether to reinstate a South Carolina state voter identification law — denied pre-clearance by the U.S. Department of Justice for violating the Voting Rights Act — one of the bill’s authors took the stand Monday to defend the bill. But when pressed, state Sen. George E. “Chip” Campsen III (R) acknowledged that none of the isolated examples of possible voter fraud that he could identify would have been prevented by requiring a photo identification to vote in-person.
The Associated Press reports:
[Campsen] cited examples of fraud that he took into consideration while drafting early versions of South Carolina’s law. These included vote buying, voter rolls indicating a woman who showed up at the polls had already voted, and press reports of voters being registered in both South Carolina and North Carolina. But under questioning from Justice Department attorney Anna Baldwin, Campsen, a Republican, said the examples he gave did not involve the type of fraud that requiring photo identification would address.
“None of the examples you gave in your testimony involved incidents of impersonation?” Baldwin asked.
“Correct,” Campsen answered. He also said he could not find cases of voter impersonation in South Carolina, but added that the state lacks the tools to root them out.
Last month, the Republican Attorney General of South Carolina also admitted that requiring a photo identification to vote would not actually prevent a determined voter impersonator from voting as someone else. But happily, as Campsen noted in his testimony, it almost never happens.
In fact, it is so rare that a person is more likely to be struck by lightning than commit voter fraud of any kind. Even the Supreme Court could only identify one example of in-person voter fraud in the past 143 years in their 2009 decision upholding a voter ID law.
By contrast, a recent Brennan Center report found that nearly 500,000 voters — mostly low-income and minority individuals — in states with voter ID laws stand to be disenfranchised.
These voter ID laws continue to be at best a solution in search of a problem — and at worse, a scheme to disenfranchise elderly, urban, poor, and minority voters who are among the least likely to have a photo identification.