Possible voting rights violation reported in Conway: 'It could be or it couldn’t be'

'It could be or it couldn’t be': possible voter rights violation in Conway, (Sydney Glenn/WPDE)

A Conway man is upset after he says his voter rights were violated at Conway Elementary School on Tuesday.

The school is serving as a polling place for the Conway City elections. Because it is a school and students are there, additional safety measures are in place.

Anyone coming into an Horry County School is required to show their driver's license and then they are given a visitor pass.

Tuesday, the man was upset that he was asked to give his driver's license and believes his voter rights were violated because, if he didn't have a driver's license, he would have still been able to vote using one of the other forms of identification, but would not have been allowed inside the school.

Per the South Carolina Election Commission, the following forms of identification are acceptable:

  • SC Driver's License
  • SC Department of Motor Vehicles ID Card
  • SC Voter Registration Card with Photo
  • Federal Military ID
  • US Passport

The issue was brought to the attention of the poll workers and the South Carolina Election Commission.

Sandy Martin, the director of Registration and Elections for Horry County, said it's not clear whether the added school security is a violation, saying "It could be or it couldn’t be."

“There is not a direct answer. She [an SC Election Commission Employee] said it could be perceived as a violation. The Voting Rights Act doesn’t address that specific situation, so it would be up to a court to decide. Basically because it was not the intent of my office, or the city, or the workers to prevent anybody from voting it was our intent to protect the students that are at that school," she said.

The issue was addressed and a temporary solution was put into place. A poll worker was placed in the front lobby and, if any voters did not want to go through the school's safety check point for any reason, a poll worker would escort them to the polling booth and then out of the school.

“We’ve had these elections in the past and they’ve gone through the check point and nobody has ever complained, so we didn’t realize it was an issue," Martin said.

Boyd Gainey, the chairman of City of Conway Election Commission, said the security is for the safety of the children.

“In years past, we’ve been able to use an entrance that’s coming into the gym on the side, and the principal was able to arrange it where the PE classes were being held in empty classrooms. Well this year as it turned out, every classroom was being occupied and so she didn’t have anywhere to move the children for their PE classes and that’s what they are here for, school," he said.

Gainey and Martin both said there was no intent to stop anyone from voting.

"Just human mistakes in a small city election. Just that simple. It was no more, no less," Gianey said.

Martin said the issue will be fixed in all future elections.

“We are going to sit down and address each school. We will have to look at it and see. Like I said typically with our elections, school is not in [session] so it’s not an issue. But for any future city elections that school is in session, we will be sure to look at it and either maybe move the precinct, or that particular election, or if possible work with the schools and put the voting in the lobby to where they don’t have to go through the checkpoint," she said.

In a phone call, the man who brought the issue to official's attention, told ABC15 News that he has contacted the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) about what he calls "voter suppression" and doesn't believe this was a free and fair election. He also said he does not believe there was any malice or this was done intentionally.

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