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Voter ID Bill Stirs Controversy in South Carolina

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South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley signs a bill May 18, 2011 that requires voters to present valid photo ID at the polls. The law, however, will not take effect until approved by the Justice Department (Fox News Photo)

COLUMBIA, SC - South Carolina could soon join eight other states in requiring voters to show picture identification when they go to the polls.

"This maintains the integrity of the process," Gov. Nikki Haley said during a press conference Wednesday afternoon, before signing the bill. "When someone goes to vote, they actually have to prove who they are."

But it's not law yet. Even though the bill, passed by a Republican party-line vote, has been signed into law by the governor, the law does not actually take effect until it is approved by the state Justice Department.

"This will prevent thousands of South Carolinians from voting," said Progressive Network director Brett Bursey. "Since there is no evidence of individuals pretending to be someone else at the polls, the clear intent of this law is to suppress the vote of poor people and minorities, who historically vote Democrat."

According to the state's Election Commission nearly 180,000 citizens have a voter registration card, but not a state issued photo ID. Prior to this law, voter registration cards were sufficient. The new law, if implemented, makes it mandatory for voters to show a drivers license, passport, military identification, state-issued identification card, or new voter registration card that has a picture. College or other student IDs are not permitted.

"If you can show a picture to buy Sudafed, if you show a picture to get on an air plane, you should show a picture to protect what is incredibly inherent in our freedom and that is the ability to vote," Haley said.

A recent Fox News poll shows most Americans agree with Haley. A whopping 88 percent of registered voters polled say having to show a picture ID is a good idea. Only nine percent think it's a bad idea.

Those in South Carolina who are opposed to the new law have 60 days to prove the difficulties in actually obtaining a valid ID, and they predict it ultimately won't get approved. But Haley says she doesn't expect much opposition. Right now it's up in the air."We are calling on the people who don't have photo IDs to begin the process of getting one now," said Progressive Network Co-Chair Virginia Sanders.

The Motor Vehicles Department requires a birth certificate or other government identification to get a state issued photo ID. But the Health Department requires an ID to get a birth certificate.

If the law is approved by the South Carolina Justice Department, it will cost the state anywhere from $500,000 to 600,000 to implement.

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