IDs: right call

The governor's veto of a voter ID bill makes sense, whether it is popular with the public or not.

June 25, 2011 

There's something curious about Republican claims that in vetoing a bill to require voters to show photo identification at the polling place, Gov. Beverly Perdue is pandering to the "liberal wing" of her Democratic Party. Polls show that respondents overwhelmingly (75 percent in one case) favor voter ID requirements. If the governor wanted to curry favor with the most people, she'd have let legislation passed by Republicans sail into law.

Instead, the governor sees the real reasons behind the legislation. This move came, after all, in the context of other Republican efforts clearly aimed at stifling turnout among likely Democratic voters. Democrats, GOP lawmakers believe, do most of the early voting, so they're attempting to shorten the window of opportunity. Republicans also believe that Democrats do more straight-ticket voting, so they're trying to do away with that. (Some studies indicate those perceptions about Democratic voters are correct.)

Both of those measures are still on the table.

In making their case for voter ID, Republicans conjured visions of people (including illegal immigrants) sneaking into the polls to cast illegitimate ballots. In fact, the problem in North Carolina is virtually non-existent, and GOP leaders know it. But had this rule been established, thousands of potential voters and even registered voters who don't have driver's licenses, for example, and aren't often in touch with government bureaucracies might have been unnecessarily and unfairly discouraged from exercising their right to vote.

Yes, Republicans offered a free ID plan for those without licenses, but that would have required an expanded bureaucracy to administer, and one unfamiliar to the students, elderly people and poor and African-American voters who likely would have been most notably affected by this change.

The party now in control of the General Assembly was the one doing the pandering here. In trying to convince people there was a problem where there wasn't one, they were appealing to anti-immigrant sentiment, to suspicion in the minds of some that there is a conspiracy to rig elections with crooked voting.

In fact, to register to vote, one must sign a document stating he or she is a U.S. citizen, has established residency in the state and county for at least 30 days and will be 18 years old by Election Day. To falsify that document or to vote fraudulently is a federal crime and a serious one.

One more time: There is no widespread problem with voter fraud in this state. Republicans are being disingenuous to characterize this voter ID campaign as anything other than what it is - an attempt to gain partisan advantage in the worst way possible, by trying to disenfranchise voters.

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