RALEIGH — Georgias top election official said Wednesday that a photo ID bill did not discourage voter participation or result in lower participation among African-Americans in his state.
Brian Kemp, Georgias secretary of state, expressed skepticism about warnings that if North Carolina adopted a photo ID requirement, it would disenfranchise large numbers of voters.
Since Georgia adopted its requirement that voters show a photo ID at the polls in 2007, only 29,611 photo IDs had been issued by the state of Georgia to voters lacking them.
That contrasts with predictions that hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians would face problems at the polls, because they do not have a drivers license.
I believe in this day and time, the majority of people have a photo ID, Kemp told the House Elections Committee.
Kemp was the star witness for the House Republicans as they prepare a voter ID bill that is almost certain to be passed. A voter ID bill passed the GOP-led legislature in 2011, but was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue. But Republican Gov. Pat McCrory has said he will sign such a bill.
The Georgia law has been closely watched by state GOP Republicans because it withstood constitutional challenges in the courts and because Georgia is a state very similar in size and demographic makeup to North Carolina.
The Georgia law allows voters to show six forms of government ID to vote, including drivers licenses, passports, military and college IDs to public colleges but not private colleges. A voter can also use an expired drivers license a concession for older persons who no longer drive, according to Kemp. If a person does not have a photo ID, they are given a provisional ballot, but must return within three days to provide a photo ID.
Georgia has spent $1.7 million on its voter ID program, mainly to publicize the program and the availability of government-issued photo IDs.
North Carolinas proposed voter photo ID law has come under particular criticism from civil rights groups, who argue it will have a disproportionate effect on African-Americans.
But Kemp said the African-American vote rose 42 percent in the 2008 presidential election over 2004, and rose 2.5 percent in 2012 over 2008.
Democratic Rep. Mickey Michaux of Durham, however, said the big rise in African-American voting was the result of President Barack Obamas organization.
But under prodding from House Republicans, Kemp also noted that African-American voting rose 44 percent from the 2006 to the 2010 elections non-presidential years in which races for governor and U.S. Senate were held.
The House Elections Committee has scheduled a public hearing on the bill next Wednesday at 4 p.m.