State House passes voter photo ID bill
With five Democrats joining them, the Republican majority in the NC House Wednesday once again passed a voter ID bill that requires, if now ratified by the state Senate, that all North Carolina voters produce official government photo identification when casting a ballot on election day.
House Bill 589, known as the “Voter Identification Verification Act,” passed 81-36 along party lines, with the exception of the five Democrats who voted with Republicans. Gov. Pat McCrory has always vowed to sign the bill once the full Legislature passes it.
Those five Democrats were Rep. William Brisson (D-Bladen); Rep. Ken Goodman (D-Richmond); Rep. Ken Waddell (D-Columbus); and Rep. Paul Tine (D-Dare).
The House version would begin in January 2016 in time for the next presidential and gubernatorial elections.
Democrats, along with progressive activist groups like the NCNAACP, have blasted the voter ID legislation as an attempt by Republicans to suppress the Democratic leaning votes of African-Americans, young people and the elderly. They pointed to other efforts like redistricting; shortening One Stop Early Voting; and ending same-day registration, “Souls to the Polls” Sunday voting and straight-ticket voting; in addition to a bill to punish parents of college students who register to vote at their schools and not in their home counties, as proof.
Republicans countered that voter ID was necessary in order to prevent voter fraud and maintain the integrity of the electoral system, even though there is very little evidence of voter fraud in the last number of statewide or local elections.
“We know voter fraud exists elsewhere, and we should not think we’re immune,” said Rep. Larry Pittman (R- Cabarrus)
The House GOP notes that they conducted a “transparent” process of numerous public hearings, and changed the bill several times to take into account the criticisms and concerns of those who opposed it.
In the crowded House gallery, NCNAACP Pres. Dr. William Barber watched the proceedings along with members of the NAACP Youth and College Division, some of whom reportedly had tape over their mouths as a symbol of defiance and voter suppression.
Rev. Barber vowed to have the law, when passed, challenged in court. He also promised more nonviolent civil disobedience.
House Democrats worked feverishly, but ultimately in vain to offer amendments to lessen the blow of photo IDs, but all but one were defeated. The one that did pass allowed tribal photo ID’s for Native Americans to be allowed at the polls.
This is the second time the Republican-led House passed a voter ID bill. The first one in 2011 was vetoed by then Democratic Governor Beverly Perdue.
The bill passed Wednesday will costs taxpayers $3.7 million to pay for possibly 200,000 registered voters statewide who, according to NC Division of Motor Vehicle records, do not have a driver’s license, as well as educate the public about voter ID.
Under this voter ID measure, those who vote via mail-in absentee ballot, will not be required to show a photographic identification. They will just sign the form, apply their Social Security or driver’s license number, and send it in.
House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg), defended passage of the voter photo ID bill.
“North Carolinians consistently and overwhelmingly support photo ID requirements for voting,” Tillis said in a statement. “This bill not only responds to the opinions of our constituents but also provides individuals without photo IDs with an opportunity to acquire them at no cost. This common-sense measure will protect the integrity of the ballot box and restore confidence in our election system.”
But NCNAACP Pres. Rev. William Barber disagrees, saying that voter ID is just one of many repressive changes the GOP-led Legislature is imposing.
“Our legislature is launching an attack on education, voting rights, the poor and the sick,” Rev. Barber said in a statement. “This attack comes from the policies of the old south which requires a clear moral response, in the deepest tradition of the nonviolent movement to inspire public outcry and protest. When legislatures work to limit the voices in one group for political gain it is bad for our communities, North Carolina, and our country. It is a moral imperative that our elected officials act in the best interest of all constituencies. We encourage leaders in the faith community to engage their members and implore those officials to act as one for the sake of all. Just one person without a voice or influence is a detriment to his or her state.”