Voter ID backers speak at public hearing

rchristensen@newsobserver.comApril 10, 2013 

— As the state House begins moving toward a voter ID bill, a public hearing Wednesday brought out strong support for the measure, which requires voters to produce a government-approved photograph at voting places.

Unlike a previous hearing which brought out numerous critics of the proposal, dozens of speakers this time argued that voter fraud was more widespread than surveys have suggested, and that requiring photos would increase public confidence in the electoral process.

Larry Henson of Wake Forest was one of several who said they had personally witnessed voter fraud. Henson said he saw a woman vote three times in November’s general election – once by impersonating a male voter. Under current law, such an action is a felony.

“I ask for your support to help keep this lady and others from committing fraud,” Henson said.

The public hearing came as the House Elections Committee prepares to vote on a voter ID bill next Wednesday. A voter ID bill passed the Republican-led legislature in 2011 but was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue. The current bill is less restrictive than that one and is almost certain to pass this year and become law. Republican Gov. Pat McCrory has said he supports voter ID.

However, a number of speakers called for making the legislation more restrictive; a provision allows the use of student IDs from public universities and community colleges and state employee IDs.

“This bill has been watered down,” said Maria Gaither, a certified public accountant. “Now is not the time to get wobbly.”

Various people told the committee they saw people voting who seemed mentally incapacitated or who didn’t seem to know their addresses. Others complained about elderly voters being allowed to vote at curbside and of having overheard some people saying they planned to vote in several counties.

A number of speakers were connected to the Voter Integrity Project, a group that has argued voter fraud is a more serious problem than authorities think. For example, numerous speakers alleged there were 63 cases of fraud last November in Buncombe County.

Katie O’Connor, staff attorney for the Advancement Project, a voting rights group that has brought suit against voter ID bills in other states, said there was no justification for such a law in North Carolina.

“There is no fraud in North Carolina that a voter ID requirement would prevent,” O’Connor said. “The most comprehensive study of voter fraud available shows that since 2000, there have been 22 allegations of any sort of voter fraud in North Carolina and only seven resulted in a conviction. One of the 22 allegations involved voter impersonations – the only type of fraud that would be addressed by a voter ID. It is a solution in search of a problem.”

Allison Riggs, an attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, said the proposed new law is more restrictive than such laws in Georgia and Indiana.

Christensen: 919-829-4532

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