According to the state’s numbers, 178,000 South Carolinians, disproportionately non-whites, don’t have any of the forms of photo ID that the law calls for. Crucially, people are in fact allowed to vote even without a photo ID, as long as they sign an affidavit stating why they don’t have one. But those working to mobilize voters say which documents are and aren’t required is not well understood.
“I think people are confused,” said Jan Leonard, an official with the Charleston County Democratic Party....Leonard and others say the state has helped stoke that confusion through its public education campaign about the law. ...
Some of the confusion stems from the ID law’s passage through the courts....Ultimately, a three-judge federal panel upheld the law in 2012, but the judges made clear that the state had to accept almost any “reasonable impediment” that voters offered as a reason why they didn’t have ID.
Amy Lee Knisley, Bowser’s daughter-in-law [, said] “She’s been voting and getting driver’s licenses, and traveling in the Caribbean and Mexico, all those 60 odd years. And the state of North Carolina decides none of that is good enough for us.” ...
Knisley, a faculty member at Warren Wilson College, worries about other women who may have difficulty proving that they changed their names when they married long ago. ...
If you don’t have a court order, marriage certificate or divorce decree to establish that you changed your name in the past, you can sign a DMV form DL-101 – an affidavit in which you affirm that you have legally changed your name – at the DMV office. ...
“We’ve not heard of [the opportunity to provide a sworn statement about name changes] before,” [Irving Joyner, a Durham lawyer for the NAACP] said. “This mix of mismatched names is a common problem for Latinos. We don’t know how many people are impacted by this problem, but obviously this is a problem.”
Joyner said he and other attorneys plan to look deeper into the Bowser case. He said he has represented ID applicants over the past few years who were never offered the option of an affidavit.
“It would appear – and we’re looking into it – that this was a resolution that was tailor-made for this one participant,” Joyner said. “It certainly smells like it’s something that’s not available to all.”
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