The legislature seems poised to once again pass a voter identification bill, legislation that has sharpened partisan lines and sparked heated debate regarding voter fraud and voting rights.
The GOP-controlled legislature passed a bill in 2011 requiring voters to show a photo ID at the polls, only to have Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue veto it. That wont be a problem this year, because Republican Gov. Pat McCrory has voiced his support for such a measure.
But it is still not clear what form the voter ID bill will take.
Earlier this month, House Speaker Thom Tillis of Cornelius and McCrory voiced support for a compromise measure that would allow voters to show forms of identification that dont include a photo, such as a registration card or other government documents.
McCrory said he would prefer a photo, but he would accept other options.
The softening position came after a report by the State Board of Elections found as many as 613,000 voters, or 9.25 percent of North Carolina voters, may not have a state-issued drivers license or identification card.
Senate leader Phil Berger of Eden said he had no disagreement with the House or the governor. But he also said the voter should have a photo ID, whether it is a drivers license or some other form of government identification.
Berger said the bill must be drawn to withstand a court challenge, which is almost certain.
Even in this age of political polarization, the issue of voter ID has generated intense political heat. Republicans argue that increased protection is needed because voter fraud is on the upswing, while Democrats and civil rights groups counter that it is a purely partisan tactic designed to suppress black voter turnout and thereby provide a strategic edge for the GOP.
Staff writer Rob Christensen