More SC voters than first thought don't have photo ID

The Department of Motor Vehicles says fewer than 600 people have called about getting a free ride to get a photo identification card to comply with South Carolina's new voter law. / FILE

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WACH, AP) -- New numbers from the state Election Commission out late Tuesday show approximately 217,000 South Carolina voters don't have a photo identification, which could be required if the U.S. Justice Department approves the state law.

That's up from 178,000 voters without the ID in January 2010. The commission initially compared its voter lists with DMV records at legislators' request. It re-compared the lists to comply with the law signed in May, which requires each of those voters to be notified. The update also answers a question from the U.S. Department of Justice, which is reviewing the law.

The Department of Motor Vehicles says nearly 700 people have called about getting a free ride to get a photo identification card to comply with South Carolina's new voter ID law. According to the DMV, only 25 rides are scheduled for the one-day only free ride program, happening Wednesday, and most of the people who called the DMV were not interested in getting a ride.

"The vast majority of the calls we received were from citizens who simply wanted to know what they had to do to get an identification card," said DMV Executive Director Kevin Shwedo. And it wasnt about politics. It was about helping people get the photo IDs they need to conduct business in their everyday lives."

In late August, Gov. Nikki Haley unveiled the free-ride program during a news conference with DMV director Kevin Shwedo, telling voters they could call to schedule a ride to their local DMV office.. Residents had to qualify by September 22.

Despite the low turnout for the program, Haley feels she is helping alleviate the problem.

"We wanted everybody that wanted a state ID to get one. We got 25 appointments, that's 25 people we're helping so I'm pleased with that," said Haley. "Should it have been more? You know, there were a lot of people that said they were thousands of people that were not able to get to the DMV. None of us knew what we were walking into, but, we were prepared whether it was 25 or 2,500."

Gov. Haley and supporters of the voter ID law argue the measure will help stop voter fraud and secure South Carolina's elections.

"If you have to show a picture ID to buy Sudafed, if you have to show a picture ID to get on an airplane, you should show a picture ID when you vote," Haley said.

Democrats and civil rights groups claim the new voter ID law is a form of voter suppression that will impact minorities, the elderly and disabled.

However, Brett Bursey with the South Carolina Progressive Network says those without photo identification are the least likely to understand what they need to do to fix the problem.

Senate Democratic Leader John C. Land has called the law a distraction.

"It's a taxpayer funded public relations stunt designed to distract attention from the real issue - this law suppresses peoples right to vote," Land said. "No government funded taxi service will change that."

Potential voters must have a valid birth certificate, Social Security card and proof of residency. If they have had a name change since birth, they must also have legal documentation such as a marriage license, divorce decree or adoption records.

"It's not a difficult thing to go ahead and get a driver's license or an identification card," said DMV Executive Director Kevin Shwedo. "We will continue to work with the citizens of South Carolina to provide those credentials and to make the process as easy as possible."

Read more about Voter ID: DMV says disabled may bring help to get photo ID under state plan State to offer rides to DMV offices for voters to get ID More information needed before SC Voter ID ruling NAACP rallies residents to challenge Voter-ID bill

Participating DMV Offices:

AndersonBambergBarnwellBeltonCharleston, Lockwood BoulevardCharleston, Ashely OaksColumbia, O TMNeil CourtEast CooperIrmoGeorgetownGreenville, University RidgeLexingtonMoncks CornerMyrtle BeachNewberryNorth Myrtle BeachOrangeburgPickensSpartanburg, Fairforest RoadWalterboro

What do you think about the offer to give free rides to those needing IDs? Will it help get the Justice Department's approval for the change? Leave your comments below.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)