Despite tricks, voter photo ID bill moves forward
BY CASH MICHAELS
OF THE WILMINGTON JOURNAL
After proving that the Republican voter photo ID bill is contrary to the NC Constitution regarding qualifying voters to vote, Durham Rep. H. M. Mickey Michaux promised Republicans Wednesday that he “…will fight to the death” against what he says is an attempt at voter suppression.
But despite strong opposition by various activist groups, including the NCNAACP, the Republican-pushed voter photo ID bill that would require all registered voters in North Carolina to brandish a government-issued photo identification when casting ballots moved closer to passage Wednesday after the state House Elections Committee heard debate from Michaux and others.
Gov. Pat McCrory has already indicated that he will sign the voter ID bill once it gets to his desk.
House Bill 589, as the voter ID measure is better known, is just one of many “assaults on voting rights,” many critics like the state NAACP and NC Democratic Party charge, that the Republican-led NC General Assembly is moving quickly to codify this legislative session.
Bill sponsors say it will now go to the House Finance Committee, and then hit the House floor for a full vote by Wednesday or Thursday of next week. They also say that thanks to new calculations that have been adopted by the state Board of Elections, there are only just over 300,000 registered voters in the state without official photo ID, not the original over 600,000 that NCBOE had estimated.
Of that number, Republicans say at least 115,000 are voters who haven’t cast a ballot in the past five years, meaning that only just over 200,000 may actually need new voter ID cards, not 600,000.
Critics charge that as the bill gets closer to a full House vote, Republican leaders are doing their best to soften the image of the legislation, and make it bulletproof to legal challenge, so that it looks more like a law to stop what many agree is nonexistent voter fraud, instead of what critics say is a partisan attempt at voter suppression against Democratic leaning groups like blacks and young people.
Democrats are also pointing at a pending Senate bill that would tax parents of dependent college-age children who choose to register to vote at their universities, and not their home addresses.
There is also Democratic consternation about another House bill that would cut the One Stop/Early Voting period down from two weeks to eight days; eliminate same day registration; stop Sunday “Souls to the Polls” voting that African-American churches favor; and end straight ticket voting which is favored by Democrats.
Starting in 2016 under the voter ID bill, voters would be able to display drivers licenses, state employee ID’s, tribal cards, veteran cards issued by the federal government and public university student IDs. Older photo IDs of up to ten years will also be accepted, even if expired. For voters who are over 70 but haven’t updated their identification cards, they’ll be able to use the card they used at age 70, no matter how much older they are.
After it was made clear that it is unconstitutional to charge anyone for a voter ID card, Republican lawmakers Wednesday announced that they were removing a requirement for those voters who couldn’t afford one to sign an affidavit to that effect. They will receive theirs free of charge from the state.
Those voters without photo ID will be allowed to cast a provisional ballot, which will be counted only after they go to their local election board with the proper photo ID afterwards. Mail-in ballots would require only a signature and either a Social Security or driver’s license number.
The bill even touts the eventual use of facial recognition technology.
GOP sponsors still have not given a final estimated price tag, though it’s assumed that if early voting is cut, those savings that Republicans say are needed, would go to help pay for new voter ID cards.
Students with the NCNAACP Youth and College Division, among others, were present at the meeting to voice their opposition.
Critics are also up in arms that at last week’s last four-hour public hearing, the Wake Republican Party and conservative Voter Integrity Project were able to get their members signed up to speak before anyone else knew, and then had their speakers read from scripts at the hearing, citing instances of alleged voter fraud.
But afterwards, Jay DeLancy, director of the Voter Integrity Project, issued a statement on their website admitting that some of the information in those scripts, “ may be inaccurate.”
“While we regret this human error and apologize for any embarrassment it may have caused to the presenters and to election officials, we caution the public against losing sight of the undeniable fact that North Carolina’s voter rolls are so corrupted that, without an effective voter ID law, it will be impossible to know who is really voting.”
Critics say Republican lawmakers should discount the “fraudulent” testimony by the Voter Integrity Project speakers.