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ISSUE 13.33
Aug. 15, 2014

RECENT ISSUES:
8/08 | 8/01 | 7/25 | 7/18

Index

News :
Questions remain about photo voter ID law
Photo :
Old store, Clarendon County, S.C.
Legislative Agenda :
Pretty empty table
Palmetto Politics :
Why the rush to get back to Columbia?
Commentary :
A little humor in politics is refreshing
Feedback :
Hail Mary a letter to us
Scorecard :
Up for Haley, down for high court
Megaphone :
From Pablum to beer
In our blog :
On electing the adjutant general
Tally Sheet :
Research past bills, proposals
Encyclopedia :
USC's Horseshoe

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NUMBER OF THE WEEK

4,800

Number of people in South Carolina who must verify their citizenship or lose government-subsidized health care because their citizenship details don’t match what the federal government has on file. More.

MEGAPHONE

From Pablum to beer

“There’s no question that this is one of the most delayed rulings in our history.”

-- Attorney Carl Epps in a story about how a lawsuit filed in 1993 by poor school districts is still awaiting a verdict -- 21 years later. The quote is in a story by Al Jazeera America and is one of three in a series published this week. Read the series.

IN OUR BLOG

On electing the adjutant general

“You would think that if electing is a good thing, electing more would be a better thing, but not necessarily. Voters’ attention is easily distracted toward such mundane matters as earning a living, raising the children, paying the bills and mowing the grass. The more offices we have to vote for, the less time and attention we have to give to any one particular office.”

-- Holley H. Ulbricht, Clemson, S.C.  Read the full post.

ENCYCLOPEDIA

USC's Horseshoe

Deriving its name from the U-shape orientation of its nineteenth- and early twentieth-century buildings massed around a central green space, the Horseshoe constitutes the historic heart of the University of South Carolina's Columbia campus and features the capital city's greatest concentration of historic buildings. Situated in a west-to-east fashion, the Horseshoe is bounded by Sumter Street to the west, Gibbes Green to the east, and Works Progress Administration-era dormitories to its north and south. No longer home to university professors, the Horseshoe's buildings continue to serve as dormitories, classrooms, and administrative offices.

The Horseshoe's construction began in 1803. The "college grounds," as it was then known, derived its design from a competition in which Charlestonian Robert Mills submitted plans for buildings that drew their inspiration from styles associated with colleges in the Northeast. While Mills's initial designs did not come to fruition, his later concepts were adopted in the construction that followed.

The first structures erected were "South Building" in 1805, later named Rutledge College, and "North Building" in 1809, which became DeSaussure College. Shortly thereafter, a home for the college's president was erected on these buildings' eastern flanks (replaced in 1940 by McKissick Library). Further construction followed. The President's House (1810) and McCutcheon House (1813) both originally served as faculty residences. Another faculty residence, Lieber College (1836), and several student residence halls-Elliott (1837), Pinckney (1837), Harper (1847), and Legare (1847) Colleges-were built to accommodate increasing enrollments. A Mills-designed project was realized in 1840 on the completion of South Caroliniana Library, the nation's oldest freestanding college library.

With its masonry and stucco three- and four-story buildings, the Horseshoe's architectural feel is that of a neoclassical historic district. Stylistically compatible 1930s-era buildings serve as buffers from modern style 1960s and 1970s structures on campus. The Horseshoe was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.

-- Excerpted from the entry by John M. Sherrer III. To read more about this or 2,000 other entries about South Carolina, check out The South Carolina Encyclopedia by USC Press. (Information used by permission.)

PALMETTO PRIORITIES

Palmetto Priorities Statehouse Report encourages state leaders to develop and implement Palmetto Priorities involving several issues to make the state better a better place. Click the link to learn more about our suggestions for bipartisan policy objectives.

Here is a summary of our Palmetto Priorities:

CORRECTIONS: Reduce the prison population by 25 percent by 2020.

EDUCATION: Cut the state's dropout rate in half by 2020.

ELECTIONS: Increase voter registration to 75 percent by 2015.

ENVIRONMENT: Adopt a state energy policy that requires energy producers to generate 20 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2020.

ETHICS: Overhaul state ethics laws.

HEALTH CARE: Ensure affordable and accessible health care.

JOBS: Develop a Cabinet-level post to add, retain 10,000 small business jobs per year.

POLITICS: Have a vigorous two- or multi-party political system of governance.

ROADS: Strengthen all bridges and upgrade state roads by 2015.

SAFETY: Cut the state's violent crime rate by one-third by 2016.

TAX REFORM: Remove outdated special interest sales tax exemptions as part of an overall reform of the state's tax structure to be completed by 2014.

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News

Questions remain about photo voter ID law

Primaries offer inconclusive but suggestive data

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher

AUG. 15, 2014 -- Critics of the state law that requires voters to now show a photo identification card often complained that such a law wasn’t needed because there weren’t a plethora of cases of voter fraud, the supposed reason that GOP legislators wanted the measure. 

Nevertheless, the voter ID bill passed in 2011, only to be blocked later that year by a federal judge. The state sued and eventually won as long as it agreed to allow voters to “opt out” of the voter ID requirement by signing an affidavit if they felt they had a “reasonable impediment” for getting an ID.

So the first big test of the new law was the June 10 primaries. More than 450,000 South Carolina voters turned up at the polls with the Republican primary garnering about two thirds of voters. 

According to state election data, only 46 provisional ballots weren’t counted because of voters not having proper identification. Just 23 voters entered the voting booth after signing affidavits that they faced an ID impediment.

Hooray, said state election officials in July, noting the lack of problems at the polls showed the voter ID law worked well.

Not so fast. Few problems over identification at the polls has nothing to do with whether the law worked, analysts say. In fact, they say more research needs to be done to figure out, for example, if the law actually chilled voting by frightening properly-registered voters from going to the polls because they didn’t have a photo ID. 

David Fleming, an assistant political science professor at Furman University, said primary voting data from one election in June made it difficult to assess the law’s impact. 

“We don’t know who didn’t show up to vote because of voter ID laws,” he said. 

A 2010 state study showed 178,175 registered voters, 35.8 percent of whom were black, didn’t have a state driver’s license or state-issued ID.

Electorate is splitting by race, age

But voting data appear to show a shifting electorate that seems to be becoming more partisan by race, according to an analysis of two similar primaries -- the 2006 and 2014 June elections. In the statewide off-year elections of 2002 and 2010, voter turnout was much higher, which likely was due to the open, competitive primaries for governor and other offices.

In 2006 and 2014, incumbent Republican governors were in re-election mode.  During those years, the number of voters registered in the state grew by 15 percent from 2.4 million to 2.8 million. 

As highlighted in the chart at right, fewer voters overall cast ballots in the 2014 races than in any off-year elections in this century. Just under 16 percent of registered voters went to the polls, compared to 17.6 percent in 2006, 24.9 percent in 2002 and 26.5 percent in 2010. Some other statewide trends (see this chart for more detail):

  • Democrats lost white voters. In 2014, some 42,004 white voters went to Democratic booths, a drop of almost 17,000 voters from eight years earlier.

  • Republicans picked up white voters. But the GOP increased in white voters by more than 44,000, from 268,444 voters in 2006 to 312,406 voters in 2014.

  • Primaries are more polarized by race. As the GOP attracted more white voters, its number of non-white voters decreased slightly in the eight-year period, while Democratic non-white voters grew by just over 3,000 in the 2014 primary to cast 90,317 ballots.

  • Fewer young primary voters. The 2014 primaries had only 5,443 voters aged 18-24 -- far fewer than the 8,610 in 2002, 6,977 in 2006 and 11,903 in 2010. Voters from 25 to 44 years old also dropped -- from 87,135 in 2006 to 70,799 this year.

Looking deeper at county data

As can be seen in the above data, it’s hard to draw conclusions about whether the voter ID bill had an impact in the June 2014 primaries. It is compelling to note, however, that while registration grew 15 percent over the eight-year period, non-white voting in the Democratic primary remained virtually the same. 

If you drill down into county voting results, a more focused picture emerges, although the data is far from conclusive, noted Lynn Teague of the state League of Women Voters.

In the Democratic primary, voting totals went down in 32 counties of 46 for a 13,741 drop in votes from 2006 to 2014. Voting went up in counties that appeared to have important local elections and in some more urbanized areas.

  • Voting by white Democrats dropped dramatically -- by more than 28 percent, while non-whites voting in the Democratic primary rose by just 3.7 percent. In fact, white vote in the Democratic primary dropped in 38 counties of 46 total as more white voters appeared to leave for the Republican Party. (Some, however, may have left in the 2014 temporarily because of a lack of enthusiasm for Democratic candidates and a more robust GOP primary; data from the coming general election will be illustrative.)

  • Non-white vote dropped in 24 of 46 counties.
  • In 11 mostly rural, poorer counties where blacks comprised about half or more of the population, the voting percentage dropped in eight counties -- from just a few votes in Marion County to more than 43 percent in Fairfield County. Before the election, the American Civil Liberties Union noted that these counties were places where at least 5 percent of blacks didn’t have a state-issued ID, which caused the organization to consider these counties as places where people might not show up because of the new ID law.

Meanwhile in the GOP primary, more than 53,000 additional white voters went to the polls in 2014 compared to 2006. White vote increased in 35 of 46 counties. 

  • Non-white vote changed little in the GOP primary, which comprised just over 8 percent of total GOP voters. But non-white vote went up in 18 of 46 counties and down in 28 counties, which some might say indicates a growing polarization by race in the parties. 
  • In the 11 targeted counties highlighted above, nonwhite vote went down marginally by 221 votes in seven counties and rose marginally by a total of 44 votes in four counties. 

 What’s next?

The data from voting doesn’t help in assessing whether the voter ID law worked, as suggested by the state Election Commission.

“We have no counterfactual,” said Teague of the League of Women Voters. “We don’t know how these numbers might have differed without the photo ID law.  Even when nonwhite voting looks stable or somewhat higher, we might have seen a larger rise without photo ID.”

Is there a way to find out more about the impact of the law? 

Yes: A poll of registered voters who stayed home to find out why they didn’t vote. And that would cost some money.

But Teague, who reviewed the voting data carefully, says such an effort is important.

“Overall, 10 counties identified as having high numbers of registered voters without photo ID,  including eight in which overall turnout declined,” she said. “None of the counties that were not so identified experienced a decline in percentage of voters participating in the primaries.  

“This suggests that the photo ID law could have reduced turnout. These counties also have high levels of poverty, so there could be other factors at work, but the numbers at least suggest that photo ID must be considered as a potential factor in lower citizen participation.”

Andy Brack is editor and publisher of Statehouse Report.  He can be reached at:  brack@statehousereport.com.

RECENT NEWS STORIES
Photo

Old store, Clarendon County, S.C.


An old country store on the side of the road in eastern Clarendon County still proclaims the message that "JESUS SAVES."  But as photographer Linda W. Brown of nearby Kingstree, S.C., observes, the Almighty apparently was not able to save the store from closing. More: BetterSouth.org
 
Legislative Agenda

Pretty empty table

There's not much on the Statehouse agenda in the week ahead:
  • Public hearing. The Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity will have a legislative public hearing at 10 a.m. Aug. 22 in 110 Blatt Building in Columbia to receive public comments on the state’s 2015 plans for the Community Services Block Grant and the Low-income Home Energy Assistance program block grant. More.

Palmetto Politics

Why the rush to get back to Columbia?

When news broke that House Speaker Bobby Harrell was checking with members about whether to return August 27 to consider unfinished business, it struck a lot of folks in a curious way.

What, they wondered, was such a big deal about two relatively minor bills vetoed by Gov. Nikki Haley? Was it worth $34,000 to try to override them? There must, many likely thought, be an ulterior motive.

One of the bills would allow library staffers to remove library users if they were disruptive. The other would allow for a fire district tax hike in Murrells Inlet. 

One Statehouse insider said it seemed obvious that something else was going on besides these two bills -- that a political favor was being repaid or that Harrell was trying to win some points to secure what may be a shaky reelection as House leader because of continuing ethics allegations.

Harrell spokesman Greg Foster said there wasn’t any ulterior motive in the potential Aug. 27 meeting. 

“Any time we have unfinished business, we ask the body what they want to do about it,” he said today.

Commentary

A little humor in politics is refreshing

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher

AUG. 15, 2014 -- Everybody in politics these days seems so bloody serious, as if a good sense of humor has been thrown out of windows across statehouses and the Capitol in one fell swoop.

Maybe it’s because politics has become so professional, driven by polls, handlers, spin doctors, white papers and the 24-hour news cycle. Maybe it’s because people are afraid that what they say will be misinterpreted, which probably would happen with all of the politically-correct ninnies taking names like weaselly school proctors. 

So when an old friend mentioned wit, politics and putdowns recently, I got to thinking of some favorite political sobriquets.

The standard to which everyone aspires is Winston Churchill, who could cast off a brickbat in a single bound. 

Once when young, Churchill grew a moustache to look older. A female constituent complained that she neither approved of his politics nor moustache. Churchill replied: “Don’t worry, madam. You are unlikely to come into contact with either.”

Another time when Churchill had been drinking heavily, a Socialist member of Parliament scolded Churchill for being drunk, which led to this famous riposte: “And Bessie, you are ugly. You are very ugly. I’ll be sober in the morning.”

And then there’s this zinger after Lady Nancy Astor told Churchill she would poison his coffee if he were her husband. Churchill responded, “I would drink it.”

South Carolinians chuckled for years about things that came out of the mouth of now retired U.S. Sen. Fritz Hollings. When challenged in a 1986 debate by GOP candidate Henry McMaster to take a drug test, Hollings responded, “I’ll take a drug test if you take an I.Q. test.” (The issue over drug tests quickly rotted away.)

When Texas Sen. John Tower, short compared to Hollings’ stature, preened about an expensive new suit one day in the Senate elevator, Hollings cracked, “Does it come in men’s sizes?”

You can find other examples of political wit in “I’ll Be Sober in the Morning,” a book of humor and comebacks edited by former College of Charleston professor Chris Lamb.

My favorite political put-down of all time is in another book from somebody you’ve probably never heard of -- a talented writer/dramatist from Australia named Bob Ellis. In 1994, he ran for a seat in Parliament against Bronwyn Bishop, a conservative woman seen as a rising star. After Ellis lost the election, he wrote a 606-page book about it. Here’s how he described Bishop:

“Ms. Bishop has, it can easily be admitted, several of the talents needed in leaders of nations -- a fine speaking voice, dauntless confidence, unflagging energy, a piercing glance, a huge head, a momentarily pleasing personality, and the immense athletic discipline required to survive a crushing schedule of furious, continent-crossing self-aggrandizement. She can recite by rote many Gilbert and Sullivan lyrics, ride a bicycle, terrify a bureaucrat and impersonate with conviction one who has no ambition but an overwhelming desire for public service.

“In short, she presents well, and acts decisively and colorfully and magnetically. But like her preferred role model Margaret Thatcher, she is formidable and charismatic without being actually intelligent (in my view) -- intelligence being, at its heart, an ability to assess and in a significant measure to predict the future.

“An intelligent dog, for instance, will not cross a road roaring with semitrailers. An intelligent leader, similarly, will not needlessly declare war, jail dissidents, burn cathedrals, storm Parliament with tanks or hang opposition leaders on live television because both dog and man have predictive intelligence enough to adjudge this course of action probably suicidal.  Senator Bishop, however, like Thatcher before her, does not have this minimal predictive intelligence, and is therefore likely, in my view, ... to wreck her country’s culture and economy, self-righteously and surely as did her idol.”

Whew! 

While our leaders don’t need to put down leaders like that, it certainly would be refreshing for them to be less scripted and more forthright. And show a little more of a sense of humor.

If you have a funny quip about a politician, send it along so we can share it.  Andy Brack is editor and publisher of Statehouse Report.  He can be reached at:  brack@statehousereport.com.

Feedback

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Scorecard

Up for Haley, down for high court

Haley. Congratulations to Gov. Nikki Haley on taking the “ice bucket challenge” -- getting doused with two pitchers of cold water by your kids to raise awareness about Lou Gehrig’s disease. Nice touch, too,  for challenging Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney, singer Edwin McCain and comedian Stephen Colbert. More.

Ervin. Independent Republican Tom Ervin is certainly shaking up the governor’s race by unveiling several ads over the last week on education, common sense, ethics and the economy.. Showing a bunch of issue ads at once defies political wisdom, but it certainly has people talking and thinking.

Booze and voting. Woo-hoo ... Now you can buy booze on election day, thanks to a new law signed this week by Haley. We’re not too sure, however, how many people have marked their calendars to celebrate on Nov. 4. Meanwhile, the new law shifted the booze sales ban to another day -- Christmas day. That’s a real hit in the egg-noggin’.

S.C. Supreme Court. With the publication this week of a series of stories by Al Jazeera America about the Abbeville school case filed in 1993 by poor school districts to get some funding, we’re embarrassed that the state Supreme Court still hasn’t ruled on the case, which has been in the court system for 21 years. It’s been at the state’s highest court awaiting the next step for more than SIX years. We’ve written about the delay here and here.

DSS. Staffers at the state Department of Social Services, under the microscope for months for how it cares for children in its care, say the agency continues to be a mess after top leadership changes. More.
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Statehouse Report

Editor and Publisher: Andy Brack
Senior Editor: Bill Davis
Contributing Photographer: Michael Kaynard

Phone: 843.670.3996

© 2002 - 2014 , Statehouse Report LLC. Statehouse Report is published every Friday by Statehouse Report LLC, PO Box 22261, Charleston, SC 29413.
Excerpts from The South Carolina Encyclopedia are published with permission and copyrighted 2006 by the Humanities Council SC. Excerpts were edited by Walter Edgar and published by the University of South Carolina Press. Statehouse Report has partnered with USC Press to provide readers with this interesting weekly historical excerpt about the state. Republication is not allowed. For additional information about Statehouse Report, including information on underwriting, go to http://www.statehousereport.com/.