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Feb 9 / Erin Ferns Lee

S.C. House Pushes Bill to Raise Voter Registration Barriers

Image by Charleston's TheDigitel, used under Creative Commons license.

Yesterday, civil and voting rights activists spoke out against a South Carolina proposal to raise restrictions on community-based groups that many voters rely on to register to vote.

House Bill 4549, “requires any group that conducts voter registration drives to register with the state Elections Commission and turn in voters’ forms within five days of signing them up. Fines for not turning them in start at $50,” the Associated Press reports. “Intentional violations would bring a maximum fine of $1,000. All employees and volunteers participating in voter drives must sign a statement swearing they will uphold state election laws.”

Bill sponsor, Rep. Alan Clemmons claims that the bill is about “accountability and transparency,” and that it is to prevent fraud, “though he acknowledges no glaring example prompted its drafting,” the AP reports.

However, opponents note that it is a costly and restrictive measure designed to curtail voter registration efforts.

“It is a fear-based piece of legislation intended to block access to the polls of minority communities,” said executive director of South Carolina Equality Christine Johnson. According to the ACLU, black voters were four times more likely to register through voter registration drives than white voters in November 2010.

Johnson was among 40 people who gathered at the Statehouse to protest the bill, representing groups, including the ACLU, NAACP, AARP, and League of Women Voters.

“Instead of trying to encourage greater participation in our democracy, state legislators are wasting time creating unnecessary barriers,” said Victoria Middleton, executive director of the ACLU of South Carolina.

The bill will be back up for debate in the State House on Tuesday, Feb. 21, according to Fox Carolina.

Learn more about voter registration drives and how proposals like HB 4549 keep eligible voters from participating in the democratic process. Monitor HB 4549 by subscribing to Project Vote’s Election Legislation eDigest.

One Comment

  1. Adrian / Feb 9 2012

    This is a real tragedy in a state that has had a history of racism. This effects everyone not just those who can’t vote. I wrote a piece recently on my website, maybe you can give me some tips!

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