The League of Women Voters of South Carolina (LWVSC) formed an initiative in early 2014 to build a statewide network and database of individuals and organizations dedicated to registering, educating,
and engaging voters and protecting their rights. Unlike many other states, South Carolina lacked a statewide coalition of voting rights advocates. Our mission is to grow this network, once established, into a permanent partnership comprised of non-partisan groups that have statewide, regional, and local footprints. This project is supported by a grant from the League of Women Voters Education Fund.
The 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down key components of the 1965 Voting Rights Act created a new landscape for voters and their advocates. In South Carolina, no longer are changes in voting procedures at state and local levels required to obtain federal approval before implementation. It’s of critical importance that voting advocates be organized to monitor implementation of election laws and be prepared to act should officials restrict voting access.
Since implementation of the voter ID law in 2013, LWVSC and our voting rights partners have acted as watchdogs to ensure that the law is carried out according to the court ruling. Despite efforts by state and county elections officials to educate themselves and the electorate, the law’s provisions are complex and difficult to understand. It’s unknown how many registered voters who lack an approved photo ID are discouraged and give up on voting entirely. Monitoring of local and special elections in 2013 reveals a disturbing lack of understanding about election administration and voting procedures in general, including on the part of county and precinct-level election officials.
The rural nature of much of our state makes outreach challenging for voting advocates in our efforts to monitor polling places and observe county councils and election commissions for changes, such as closing or consolidating polling places in communities with high concentrations of minority voters, changing single member to at-large districts, and annexations that affect the voting rights of minority populations. The League’s experience on efforts to expand voting access and protect voting rights has shown that many citizens of our state are ill-informed regarding their voting rights and the complicated workings of the election process. We believe that this renders voters vulnerable and may help explain low levels of citizen engagement in our democracy.
The following are organizations are strong voter advocates in the State of South Carolina who have joined in this effort:
ACLU of SC
Alpha Kappa Alpha
Conservation Voters of South Carolina
Delta Sigma Theta
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
League of Women Voters of South Carolina
Protection & Advocacy for People with Disabilities, Inc.
PTA of South Carolina
South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center
South Carolina Coalition for Healthy Families
South Carolina Progressive Network
State Election Commission
United Methodist Women, South Carolina Conference