Sumter Non-Profit Warns Against Requiring Photo ID's to Vote

11:30 PM, Mar 11, 2011   |    comments
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Sumter, SC (WLTX) - A non-profit in Sumter is helping people acquire photo identification.

It's in preparation of a possible law that would require people to present their photo ID to vote.

"Our purpose in this endeavor is to help people get photo IDs," said The Family Unit's Dr. Brenda Williams.

If you need a favor there are few better people to come to in Sumter than Dr. Brenda Williams. She's turned abandoned properties into homes for those who might otherwise be homeless, she volunteers at a free clinic, and now she's spending hours trying to help people obtain photo identification.

"She means so much to me and so many people in Sumter," said Richard Horne. Williams helped Horne get his voter identification in 2008.

Out of her office, Williams was helping Amanda Wolf Friday. Wolf doesn't have a photo ID, and they quickly ran into a problem as they tried to obtain a copy of her birth certificate.

"I don't have a birth certificate, I was adopted so I don't know anything about my birth parents. I've tried before and it's very difficult," said Wolf.

As Williams and her non-profit "The Family Unit" has discovered, the process isn't easy. She's also discovered there are a lot more people without a photo ID than you might think.

"We see a lot of people and many of whom have no picture ID at all, but who are registered voters," said Williams.

At first Williams' group let the community know they'd pay their $5 fee to obtain a photo identification, but they soon found out that was just the beginning of what they'd need. To obtain such an ID you must have your birth certificate, proof of social security number and other items.

Williams says that can be a costly process which is especially difficult for the poor in her community.

For instance, Williams was able to help Mayesville resident Thelma Hodge obtain her birth certificate and marriage license from 1958, but only after numerous phone calls and a lot of work. The total bill Hodge faced was $64.17.

It's work and a price tag that Williams says will deter people from voting.

"Many people, I fathom to say thousands, would be knocked out of the electoral process," said Williams.

As for Wolf, the young woman Williams was trying to help Friday, they ran into a big snag. The two realized they'd need to know the hospital Wolf was born in. It's information she does not know. Williams is going to make more phone calls on Monday to find out what to do next.

For Wolf and her peers, it's all about being able to vote.

"It means the world to me," said Horne.

Supporters of the photo ID bill say it will protect our state against voter fraud.

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