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New South Carolina voter registration requirement means giving out less personal info

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About 3.3 million people in South Carolina are currently registered to vote, even though South Carolina is home to almost 4 million adults of voting age.

Horry County Democratic Party Chairman Donald Kohn said a longtime voting requirement in South Carolina may have been holding back some of those eligible adults from registering to vote.

For years, South Carolina has been one of just three states that requires you to provide all nine digits of your Social Security Number (SSN) when registering to vote.

Kohn said that requirement has been a concern for many because they're giving private information over to a stranger when registering to vote. That information is then entered into an election system that has been targeted by hackers.

“Many people are giving their Social Security Number because of this over to perfect strangers and that’s never a good thing," he said.

That's why in November of 2019, the Democratic Party filed a federal lawsuit over this requirement.

In mid-January 2020, a federal judge dropped the case after South Carolina election officials agreed to change the voter registration requirement from all nine digits of your SSN to just the last four, mirroring the policy in most other states.

"The importance of that is that now you don’t have to give up your whole Social Security Number, which is a financial risk that many people are concerned about and that we should all be concerned about," Kohn said.

Kohn said the last four digits of a person's SSN are enough to verify their identity without compromising their personal information.

“I'm glad we finally caught up with the rest of the country. It's an area where we don’t want to expose people. Voting is both a right and a privilege and in order to get more people out we have to take down every barrier we possibly can, and this was just another one of those barriers that needs to be removed," he said.

Kohn said he had received some complaints locally about the previous nine-digit requirement.

“How many of those people were not registering because of this? Hard to tell, but it certainly was holding back some people, and rightfully so," he said.

While Kohn said it's not clear how many people the previous policy was deterring from registering to vote, even if it encourages just one more person to register now, the change will be well worth it.

“Even if it's one, it matters," he said.

Election officials will create an updated registration form reflecting the new, reduced SSN requirement.

However, even before those new forms are available, officials say you can still provide just the last 4 digits of your SSN on forms that still ask for all nine digits.

Kohn said this change, along with the new voting machines, should ensure security and privacy in the South Carolina voting system.

If you intend on voting in the upcoming Democratic Presidential Primary in February, the deadline to register to vote ahead of that election is Jan. 30.

Kohn said while this change removes a barrier to voting, other barriers still exist. He said there are not enough opportunities for people in rural parts of Horry County to register to vote and that weekday elections prevent many who work from being able to participate.

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ABC 15 did reach out to the Horry County Republican Party for comment, but its officials were not available for comment on Monday.

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