Still pushing on Voter ID

July 22, 2013 

Just when it appeared the unnecessary, wasteful, oppressive ideas on voter identification proposals couldn’t get any worse, state Senate Republicans have found a way.

Republican Sen. Tom Apodaca of Hendersonville wants to toss out about half of the photo identifications permitted in a House bill, notably including IDs from law enforcement agencies, private employers and those from the University of North Carolina system and community colleges. He also proposes rejecting IDs from local governments.

His logic: “We want a state-issued ID or a federal-issued ID,” Apodaca said, expressing the concern that college IDs “could be manipulated” and allow out-of-state students to vote in two states.

Republican legislators, the great voices of less government and trusting individuals and protecting their freedoms, apparently have no trust in the public whatsoever. Apodaca’s view seems to be that people will do anything to cast a fraudulent vote (an act that is already a felony). If so, why aren’t they doing it? Instances of voter fraud in North Carolina have been virtually nonexistent. There is no case to be made for the urgency of voter identification.

There is, however, a motive. Republicans know that the young, the poor and the elderly are groups most likely to lack a government-issued ID and are inclined to vote Democratic. Therefore Republicans have an incentive to make it as hard as they possibly can for some in these groups to vote.

Most North Carolinians see no problem with requiring a driver’s license or government-issued ID to vote. That may be because most North Carolinians already have such identification. But there are 318,000 registered North Carolina voters who lack a photo ID, according to the State Board of Elections. They are law-abiding, American citizens. They have a constitutional right to vote. It’s not a right that should be made needlessly complicated, especially for partisan reasons.

The Voter ID effort has been dishonest from the start and it has gained momentum from an unfortunate Supreme Court ruling last month that gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Now states and counties covered by the Act, including 40 counties in North Carolina, are no longer required to get federal approval before they change election laws. Given that new freedom, North Carolina Republicans couldn’t wait to push on with Voter ID and the efforts have been strong in the House and Senate.

But the Senate Republicans, who have emerged as the most extreme advocates in high-profile issues, aren’t happy with a slight suppression of votes through requiring some form of photo ID. They want to go all the way, and Apodaca is ready to guide the chamber around the bend.

University IDs and those others Apodaca would eliminate as acceptable at the polls are accepted in a host of businesses and by government agencies.

He counters that people who are entitled to vote but don’t have an acceptable ID could get a free photo ID from the state. But Republicans know that many who lack a photo ID are not accustomed to dealing with government bureaucracies and might not be aware of a free-ID program or may lack transportation or Internet access.

And for that matter, given the Republicans’ eagerness to push on with more restrictive rules, just how would people without IDs qualify to get free photo IDs from the state if they lack conventional identification to begin with? If, after all, Republicans are so determined to reduce the number of Democratic voters any way they can, does it follow that they’ll make it easy for those who don’t have IDs to get them?

This entire campaign for photo IDs has been transparent. It is not motivated by a desire to protect the democratic process, but by a desire to load the dice for Republicans in any and every way it can be done. This effort is an embarrassment to the state and it does not fool anyone.

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