Downshift on Voter I.D.

January 10, 2013 

What’s this? Republicans backing away a bit from an issue they used to politically club former Gov. Beverly Perdue? It seems so, and if it is so, good.

During a visit to the General Assembly on Wednesday, Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican with super majorities of his party in both houses of the legislature, indicated he might be willing to compromise on the GOP’s push to require North Carolinians to produce photo identification when voting. Republicans passed the bill last session. Perdue rightly vetoed it.

The aim, Republicans said, was to prevent voter fraud. Democrats, countering with evidence that voter fraud isn’t a problem in North Carolina, suspected the GOP was trying to limit participation by minorities and the elderly. These are two groups with large numbers of people without conventional driver’s licenses. And two groups inclined, perhaps, to vote Democratic.

The State Board of Election has released figures showing that more than 600,000 North Carolinians may not have licenses or other state-issued identification cards.

Now Republicans are talking about accepting other forms of identification. The best solution is to forget the entire idea. The voting process in North Carolina has operated for generations with very few problems connected to fraud. To get into this identification business would be expensive (just who’s going to keep track?) and time-consuming (in a big election year, lines would be slowed).

Sometimes, the wisdom in lawmaking is to not make laws, particularly if they gum up the works and appear to be self-serving for one party.

The voter I.D. issue became a distraction in the last session and could be a distraction in this one. That’s the last thing a General Assembly wrestling with serious budget issues needs.

And given the large numbers of people who might be affected, Republicans risk alienating voters and opening themselves to renewed charges that they’re indeed trying to skew turnout.

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