McCrory signs Voter ID Bill

Published 8:45 am Thursday, August 15, 2013

RALEIGH – To the delight of some and dismay of others,

Governor Pat McCrory on Monday placed his signature on House Bill 589, better known as Voter ID.

The legislation, approved earlier along party lines by both the NC House and NC Senate, has sparked a wave of reaction.

On the negative side of the issue, two organizations have filed lawsuits to block the implementation of Voter ID. That legal action was undertaken Monday by the North Carolina NAACP, and the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation and the Southern Coalition For Social Justice (SCFSJ). Both lawsuits claim that the new law will have a disproportionate effect on the black population.

Meanwhile, the Governor has stood firm in his belief that showing identification is a common practice in everyday life, so why not when casting a ballot.

“Common practices like boarding an airplane and purchasing Sudafed require photo ID and we should expect nothing less for the protection of our right to vote,” McCrory said in a press release sent to this newspaper and other media outlets across the state.

He went on to say that this law will help ensure the integrity of the North Carolina ballot box and provide greater equality in access to voting to state citizens.

“North Carolinians overwhelmingly support a common sense law that requires voters to present photo identification in order to cast a ballot,” McCrory said.

The new law becomes effective for the 2016 election cycle, making North Carolina the 34th state to adopt legislation requiring some form of photo identification to vote.

“While some will try to make this seem to be controversial, the simple reality is that requiring voters to provide a photo ID when they vote is a common sense idea,” said McCrory. “This new law brings our state in line with a healthy majority of other states throughout the country. This common sense safeguard is common-place.”

A valid North Carolina driver’s license, U.S. passport and various military IDs are among the acceptable forms of photo identification. A voter can also 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.

McCrory said the hours available to cast an early ballot remain the same and there will be 10 days for voters to cast their ballot early.  The law requires county board of elections to calculate the number of early voting hours offered in the 2012 presidential and the 2010 non-presidential voting years. The same amount of early voting hours in those years must be made available in presidential and non-presidential elections going forward. Also, all early voting sites within a county must have the same days and hours of operation.

In addition to the requirement to show ID prior to voting, the legislation also contains other caveats. Straight-ticket voting is no longer allowed; a person registering and voting on the same day is prohibited; and it does away with pre-registration of 16 and 17 year olds.

The law will also seek to reduce the “pay-to-play” culture of politics by placing additional campaign finance restrictions on lobbyists. Lobbyists are now prohibited from delivering even a single campaign contribution to candidates.

On the other side of the issue, opponents of Voter ID point to the fact that 2.5 million ballots were cast during the early voting period of the 2012 election, representing more than half the total electorate. More than 70 percent of African-American voters utilized early voting during the 2008 and 2012 general elections.

“For many voters, the choice is between early voting or not voting at all,” said the ACLU/SCFSJ in a press release citing reasons for filing their lawsuit. “Early voting provides flexibility in finding time to vote, and significantly eases the burden of arranging transportation to a voting site. This is particularly critical for low-income voters, who are more likely to have hourly-wage jobs that don’t afford them the time to get to the polls on Election Day or during common work hours. Work, combined with child-care responsibilities, places great demands on voters living in poverty. Poverty in North Carolina is higher among African Americans, meaning a reduction in early voting opportunities will disproportionately impact voters of color.”

As far as photo ID, the State Board of Elections released a study in January of this year 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.

ACLU/SCFSJ also took exception to the elimination of same-day voter registration and casting a ballot. The press release stated that in recent elections, North Carolinians could register, or update their registration information and vote, in one trip to an early voting site. In both 2008 and 2012, approximately 250,000 people did so. African Americans disproportionately relied on same-day registration in both elections. The new law eliminates this opportunity to register, effectively disenfranchising tens of thousands.

Also on Monday, the North Carolina NAACP responded to the Governor signing the legislation as well by filing a compliant against McCrory in the Middle District Federal Court. The legal challenge charges that the law violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which bans voting procedures that discriminate on the basis of race, color, or membership in one of the language minority groups. The suit also challenges the law under the 14th and 15th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

The NAACP states that this legislation, “Is 57 pages of regressive, unconstitutional acts to rig and manipulate elections through voter suppression.”

“Governor Pat McCrory and the North Carolina Legislature are on the wrong side of history. This Anti-Voting Rights Bill tramples on the blood of our martyrs, desecrates the graves of freedom fighters, and in the 21st Century lines up with the extreme racially-driven philosophy of interposition and nullification promoted by past political figures like George Wallace and Strom Thurmond,” the NAACP said in a press release.

On the day after its passage in the General Assembly, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper urged McCrory to veto the Voter ID legislation. Monday’s action by the Governor prompted a response from Cooper.

“This bill was much more than just voter ID,” he said. “There were dozens of reasons to veto this bad elections bill with its restrictions on voting, more corporate campaign money and reduced public disclosure being just a few.”

The final approval of Voter ID was also opposed by Democracy NC.

“The radical new law makes the most sweeping changes to North Carolina’s election process in decades,” noted Bob Hall, Executive Director of Democracy NC. “It redefines and restricts who can vote, where, when and how and, at the same time, allows more special-interest, private money to pour into our public elections, often from secret sources. To call it a law to promote confidence in elections is ridiculous. It is designed to help certain politicians and wealthy donors, not honest voters. It not only slices a week off early voting and ends pre-registration of teenagers, it raises contribution limits five-fold to judicial candidates, eliminates disclosure of electioneering spending by corporations in the summer months before a fall election, and repeals North Carolina’s pioneering “Stand By Your Ad” law.”

Hall said the new legislation repeals judicial public financing and two other public financing programs. It also repeals a disclosure measure designed to give the public knowledge about who paid for certain kinds of campaign ads by requiring the top five donors to a corporate entity from the last six months to be disclosed in print media. He said repealing the provision keeps dark money even more secret from the public.

“Two provisions that will mean outside groups can spend unlimited amounts of money, from virtually any source, throughout the summer against a candidate without disclosing the source or amounts to the public. From the May primary to September 7 of even-numbered years, the public will get no information about who is financing electioneering spending,” Hall said.

On the federal side, U.S. Senator Kay Hagan and U.S. Congressman G.K. Butterfield both called on United States Attorney General Eric Holder to review what they termed as a “restrictive voting bill.”

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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