Feds clear S.C. online registration law

  • Posted: Tuesday, October 2, 2012 9:52 p.m.

COLUMBIA — South Carolina’s online voter registration law has won federal approval, allowing just a few days for people to use the easier option to sign up to vote Nov. 6.

The U.S. Justice Department waited until its deadline to act on the state law signed in June. Under the 1965 Voting Rights Act, South Carolina must receive federal agency’s approval for any election law change.

“The attorney general does not interpose any objection to the specified changes,” reads the letter dated Oct. 1 and faxed to the state attorney general’s office Tuesday morning.

The law passed unanimously by the Legislature removes several steps from the paper registration process. Supporters say the online option will help voters, improve the accuracy of voter rolls and save money. South Carolina becomes the 13th state nationwide to implement online voter registration.

The system should be available later Tuesday through a link on the state Election Commission website, said spokesman Chris Whitmire. The commission had been awaiting the federal OK.

People who want to vote Nov. 6 can register through Saturday. State law requires registration at least 31 days ahead of an election.

The online system requires a driver’s license or Department of Motor Vehicles identification card number because information is checked through the DMV database. Once an application is accepted, voters can receive their registration card in the mail in as little as a day, Whitmire said.

The online registration law is separate from the voter ID law that the federal agency blocked.

That law requires voters to show government-issued photo identification at the polls, such as a driver’s license or DMV card, which residents could obtain for free. But the Justice Department blocked that law from taking effect, saying it would disenfranchise minority voters. The state attorney general has challenged that decision, and the case is still pending in federal court.

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