South Carolina governor signs voter photo ID bill

CHARLESTON, South Carolina Wed May 18, 2011 3:05pm EDT

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (C) stands with other Republican governors in Washington December 1, 2010. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (C) stands with other Republican governors in Washington December 1, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

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CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters) - Governor Nikki Haley on Wednesday signed into law a bill that requires voters to show photo identification at the polls, making South Carolina the tenth state to adopt such legislation.

The measure landed on the Republican governor's desk after state senators voted 26-16 last week to concur with the House of Representatives bill, which requires people to show a driver's license, military identification or passport along with their voter registration card when they vote.

Those who don't have a photo ID must obtain a new voter registration card that includes a photo. A birth certificate or passport can be used to prove identity.

"If you can show a picture to buy Sudafed, if you can show a picture to get on an airplane, you should be able to show a picture to make sure that we do what is incredibly inherent in our freedoms and that is the ability to vote," Haley said at the signing ceremony in Columbia.

Similar legislation died in the state Senate in 2010.

During contentious debate this spring, Democrats called the legislation "voter suppression" and said it was pushed by Republicans soon after Barack Obama was elected president.

"In 2008, we had too many black folk, too many brown folk, too many poor folk voting," said state Representative David J. Mack III. "They (Republicans) can't have that in 2012."

Supporters said the measure was meant to combat voter fraud.

"It is just a simple means of commonly used technology to ensure the integrity of our ballot," said Greg Foster, spokesman for House Speaker Bobby Harrell.

"In South Carolina you have to show a photo ID to do almost everything. This is not about any one individual or one set of individuals."

Kansas also added a photo ID requirement this year, which takes effect January 1. Thirty-three states have considered adding or strengthening voter identification requirements this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The new South Carolina law will disenfranchise thousands of state citizens who don't drive and have no means of obtaining a birth certificate, said Victoria Middleton, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina.

"We work for fair and free elections," she said. "Fair means you have a level playing field ... We see this as a restrictive measure."

(Additional reporting by Corrie MacLaggan; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Greg McCune)

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