Voter ID passes House

Published 6:22 pm Wednesday, April 24, 2013

RALEIGH – Five Democrats joined all majority Republican members of the NC House of Representatives on Wednesday to approve Voter ID in the state.

House Bill 589, the “Voter Information Verification Act,” passed the House on its second reading with a vote of 81-36 – a bipartisan vote on one of the key pieces of legislation for the Republican House majority.

The five Democrats joined with 76 of the 77 House Republicans (one GOP member had an excused absence) to approve the legislation, which now moves to the NC Senate for consideration.

The 36 “no” votes were all from Democrats, to include local Representatives Annie Mobley of Ahoskie and Michael Wray of Gaston.

The North Carolina NAACP is one group that lobbied hard in opposition to the bill.

“To be fraudulent in the claim of voter fraud and distort truth in order to pass laws to make it harder for people to vote is unthinkable in a modern democracy,” stated Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, President of the NAACP North Carolina State Conference. “To pass a modern day poll tax disguised as voter photo ID is to engage in modern-day interposition and nullification blocking freedom and constitutional rights and progress. It is as if they are trying to be the George Wallaces of the 21st century in a shameful display of the arrogance of power.”

The vote came after more than three years of public discussion around the issue of voter identification, according to information provided in a press release issued by Representative Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg), Speaker of the House.

The vote is the result of a 10-month process that included multiple public hearings, hours of testimony by experts and members of the public, and in-depth analysis of voter ID systems in numerous other states.

“North Carolinians consistently and overwhelmingly support photo ID requirements for voting,” Tillis said.  “This bill not only responds to the opinions of our constituents, but also provides individuals without photo ID’s 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.”

The bill was aimed at improving North Carolina’s voting process by requiring citizens to show photo identification when voting and would be fully implemented by 2016.  The measure utilizes the 2014 elections as a bridge to identify which voters may be without an accepted form of photo ID and establishes a program to help citizens acquire a free photo identification card through the Department of Motor Vehicles.  For citizens without photo ID’s, non-operator photo ID cards will be issued at no direct cost to the voter through the DMV.

Beyond the photo identification requirement, the bill takes steps to ensure the integrity of provisional and absentee ballots.  It also directs the State Board of Elections to study the use of modern technology in voting, paving the way for further efficiency through digital efforts in the future.

“This is a historic vote for North Carolina,” said Tillis.  “This strong message of bipartisanship on such an important, and at times controversial, issue is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the House members who remained committed to this effort for many months. I commend their work, and I am encouraged by the overwhelming support this bill received today.”

Two other national NAACP leaders released statements to statewide media outlets, including this newspaper, in the wake of Thursday’s vote.

“Today the North Carolina legislature put partisan politics over democracy,” stated NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “The strict voter ID bill that passed the House today will disenfranchise thousands of voters, including some of North Carolina’s most vulnerable communities. We will continue to support the North Carolina NAACP and their allies as they oppose this bill in the state Senate.”

“The House vote today is a democratic failure for North Carolina,” stated Jotaka Eaddy, Senior Director of the NAACP’s Voting Rights Initiative. “One vote not counted on Election Day any place in America is a loss for democracy. State legislatures throughout the country should be working to expand the opportunity for eligible citizens to vote. The NAACP State Conferences will continue to work with state legislatures on combating bills that truly threaten election integrity and limit access to the ballot.”