Aiken County Registration and Elections held the first of two seminars on the new photo voter ID requirements on Thursday, which the office deemed a success.

“We had a lot of good questions,” said Yolanda Dortch, Clerk III for the elections office. “We had a lot of the public come that did not understand clearly. I feel that once we went through it, they had a really good understanding, positive feedback and they feel like it’s a good thing.”

The new law, which went into effect Jan. 1, requires voters to show a photo ID at their polling place during elections. Voters will have five options in photo IDs: a S.C. driver’s license, an ID card issued by the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles, a voter registration card with a photo, federal military ID or a U.S. passport. The ID must be current and valid.

Under the old rules, voters had to show one of three forms of ID: a S.C. driver’s license, a S.C. ID card issued by the state DMV, or a S.C. voter registration card.

“The purpose of this ID law is to confirm that the person who voted is that particular person,” Dortch told the crowd of about 25 people. “We’re putting a face with the name.”

Dortch emphasized that if you already have one of the qualifying photo IDs, you’re ready to vote.

“The state did some research,” she said, adding that a majority of people already vote using their driver’s license. “A lot of people, normally, that’s what they use to vote because it’s something that you have on you all the time.”

There are three types of voter registration cards: the current paper card with no photo; a new plastic card with your photo; and a paper card with your photo, which will be given to you at the elections office until your plastic card arrives in the mail.

The new cards contain your name, county, registration number, registration date and your signature on the back. The cards do not expire and the photos do not have to be updated. They can be processed at the Registration and Elections Office at no cost.

Dortch also stressed that there will be no changes in the voter registration requirements.

In October, a federal court panel ruled in favor of the state’s voter ID law, which had been hotly debated between lawmakers, politicos and community activists for months.

The judges declined to let the law take effect immediately; otherwise, it would have impacted the November general election.

“At first, the law was written so that you had to have your voter registration card and an ID,” Dortch said. “That’s when it went to the Department of Justice, they rewrote it and made it more convenient and easier across the board.”

If a person does not have a photo ID on election day due to a “reasonable impediment” of obtaining one, they may vote a provisional ballot after showing a non-photo voter registration card and signing an affidavit attesting to the voter’s identity and impediment.

According to the state attorney general, a reasonable impediment is “any valid reason, beyond the voter’s control, which created an obstacle to the voter obtaining the necessary photo ID in order to vote.”

Examples of reasonable impediments include religious objection to being photographed, lack of transportation, disability or illness, lack of birth certificate, work schedule and family responsibilities.

A voter may claim any obstacle they find reasonable, as long as it is true.

Also, the voter determines what is reasonable – poll managers and other election officials do not determine the reasonableness of the claimed impediment.

“That voter signed that affidavit – that’s taking their word,” Dortch said.

The ballot will count unless the county election commission has grounds to believe the affidavit is false. The commission would have to prove that the voter either lied about their identity or lied about having a reasonable impediment.

“The only way your ballot will not count is if the election commission has proof that that person lied,” said Cynthia Holland, executive director of Aiken County Registration and Elections.

If you don’t have a reasonable impediment and don’t have a qualifying ID, you can still vote a provisional ballot at the polls; however, for the vote to count, you must provide one of the qualifying IDs to the county election commission before the certification of the election, which is usually the Thursday or Friday after the election.

Richard Johnson Jr., of Aiken, came to the seminar on Thursday and said it was beneficial.

“I was totally against it because of the things that were required to get the picture ID,” he said. “That was confusing and cumbersome and made it more difficult to obtain picture IDs.”

Johnson went to the elections office and got his new voter registration card.

“I didn’t have to have this because I have a driver’s license,” he said, holding his new temporary card. “I wanted to go through the process so that I would fully understand and would be able to educate others about the process. All you have to do is go down to the voter registration office, get your picture made and go on about your business.”

Dortch said education about the process is key.

The Registration and Elections Office will have another seminar at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Aiken Electric Cooperative, 2790 Wagener Road. Other seminars will be scheduled later on.

Anyone seeking more information about the new law can visit the Registration and Elections Office at 916 Vaucluse Road or call the office at 642-2028.

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