The campaign of Senate leader Phil Berger has decided to modify a re-election ad running on TV after the North Carolina NAACP complained it misled voters and could harm turnout at the polls this November.
But a spokesman for the Eden Republican on Wednesday maintained the complaint, which the NAACP filed this week with the State Board of Elections, was off-base, erroneous and was at its core just a publicity move.
The challenged ad celebrated Berger’s support for a law passed by the legislature in 2013 that requires voters to show a photo ID at the polls. What the ad didn’t clarify was that the requirement doesn’t kick in until 2016, the NAACP noted in its complaint, which asked for an investigation and criminal prosecution. If voters think the ID law kicks in this year, those unprepared might be discouraged from voting in November, the civil rights group posed. It also alleged that might have been the ad’s intent.
In a written response to the elections board, Berger spokesman Ray Martin described the complaint as “groundless, riddled with false statements, unsupported by the facts, and is principally an effort to generate publicity by and for the complainants.”
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Martin also provided media a new version of the ad, clarifying to audiences when the voter ID requirement is effective. The 30-second spot is largely the same as what has aired, but adds for roughly three seconds the text “Photo ID to vote” above a smaller line that says “Starting in 2016.”
A spokesman for the NAACP said Wednesday that his group had a busy agenda for the day and wasn’t immediately able to comment on the ad change.
Berger’s campaign is asking the elections board to dismiss the complaint.
The campaign added that the complaint itself was misinformed. The NAACP cited an incorrect spending figure and based the complaint on an earlier version of the ad. The campaign also disputed the allegation that it meant to mislead voters.
“Specifically, the intent of the ad is to inform the voters about Senator Berger’s successful efforts to protect the integrity of the voting process through a photo ID requirement,” Martin wrote to the elections board.
Berger, who called the ID requirement “common sense,” is seeking an eighth term in the N.C. Senate and will face Eden Democrat William Osborne on the ballot.
Opponents of the voter ID concept argue that it places a barrier in front of low-income, minority and elderly residents who want to vote but lack a valid or current photo ID.
The State Board of Elections has produced numerous materials to make voters aware of the law changes rendered in 2013. The changes include fewer days of early voting and elimination of same-day registration – changes already in effect. Information is available on the board’s website.
Benjamin Brown writes for the NCInsider.com, www.ncinsider.com, a government news service owned by The News & Observer.