Howard Ellis: Provisions outdated

April 20, 2013 

Provisions outdated

In his April 14 Point of view “How voter ID violates N.C. Constitution,” Press Millen avers that the state constitution forbids voter ID laws. He mentioned that the constitution prohibits qualifications based on property or education and allows for the disqualification of felons. He extrapolated from these provisions to conclude that voter ID is unconstitutional, even though the constitutional provisions he mentions predate the invention of the motor vehicle and therefore the prevalence of state-issued ID cards.

It’s not clear that in 1868 people had any readily available official means of personal identification, when even birth and death records were spotty and photography was not widespread. I wonder whether he takes an equally literal view of other constitutional provisions.

Does he hold there is no right of privacy in the constitution, freeing the legislature to prohibit abortion and criminalize same-sex relations? Congress really can make “no law” regarding religion or speech? The bill of rights applies only to the federal government? The equal protection clauses (14th Amendment and N.C. Sec. 19 respectively) forbid using race as a criterion in admissions or hiring? Or is it only policies that he disfavors that must be interpreted according to the absolute literal meaning of constitutional provisions?

Howard Ellis

Wake Forest

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