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Are you who you say you are?

Published 8:31am Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Okay, let me get this off my chest – I like the idea of having to show an identification card, one bearing my photo, when exercising my right to vote.

Duck, Cal….here come the arrows aimed at my conservative heart because I support the effort of the Republican-controlled North Carolina General Assembly to pass Voter ID legislation, a bill signed into law last week by Gov. Pat McCrory.

But before you cue-up your first arrow and take aim at me, let me make it perfectly clear that I would have supported Voter ID no matter my political beliefs. Showing an ID, proving who you say you are, to participate in perhaps the most powerful of all American rights just makes good sense.

While the rest of the top-heavy Voter ID bill is most definitely debatable – including the days/hours of early voting and the end of allowing 17-year-olds an opportunity to pre-register – there’s no harm, in my eyes, in showing an ID in order to cast a ballot.

We perform that task already in other venues.

Personally, I’ve whipped out my driver’s license on numerous occasions over the past couple of months. I’ve been asked, and obliged, to show a photo ID when I sold some scrap metal at a local recycling center; and when, due to my recent move to Northampton County, I switched power companies and had to set up a new account with Roanoke Electric. The same thing happened when establishing an account with Northampton County Public Works (signing up for water).

The weekend that Deborah and I moved from Ahoskie to Pinetops, I rented a U-Haul truck from Ace Hardware. Guess what the clerk asked for first – yep, a photo ID.

Go try and write a check for groceries, or to personally pay a bill without having to prove that the name/address on that financial document matches the one on your driver’s license. Nowadays you even have to show a photo ID to purchase certain types of over-the-counter medication.

Those against Voter ID in North Carolina are basing their opposition on that the legislation will have a disproportionate effect on the black population. The NAACP claims that there are tens of thousands of eligible voters that lack a photo ID card as required by the new law. They point to a study released in January of this year by the State Board of Elections that revealed more than 600,000 registered voters lack an identification card bearing a photo. The Board matched voter registration records against DMV records and found that as many as 612,955 voters could not be matched with a DMV-issued drivers’ license or photo ID card. The General Assembly itself estimated in a note to HB 589, an earlier version of the voter ID law, that between 232,502 and 364,393 voters will lack acceptable photo ID by 2017. These estimates are between 3.6 percent and 5.6 percent of North Carolina’s registered voters.

It appears that those crafting this legislation took that into consideration as the bill allows those without a proper photo ID, such as a North Carolina driver’s license, to obtain a state-issued photo ID from the Department of Motor Vehicles at no charge. If a voter comes to the polls without a photo ID, they can still cast a provisional ballot.

A U.S. passport and various military IDs are also among the acceptable forms of photo identification at the polls.

I guess we all will have to wait-and-see if this new legislation survives the legal challenges. I can live with whatever a judge decides as best, but I can’t see this entire legislative package being overturned simply due to the photo ID portion of its language. That’s the easiest, and most sensible, part…..safeguarding the most precious of all rights.

Cal Bryant is Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be contacted by email at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or by phone at 252-332-7207.

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