Politics & Government

Is next year too soon to ask NC voters to show photo ID?

Protesters oppose voter ID bill during legislative special session

NC NAACP President Rev. T. Anthony Spearman and Rev. William Barber led protesters at Bicentennial Plaza and into the gallery of the General Assembly during its special session on Tuesday, Nov. 27.
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NC NAACP President Rev. T. Anthony Spearman and Rev. William Barber led protesters at Bicentennial Plaza and into the gallery of the General Assembly during its special session on Tuesday, Nov. 27.

Voters would be asked to show photo Identification before they cast ballots starting with municipal primaries next year under a plan moving ahead in the legislature — over Democrats’ objections that lawmakers are moving too fast on complicated changes to elections rules.

The state Senate passed a voter ID bill Wednesday in a preliminary 32-11 vote. Along the way, Republicans derailed Democrats’ attempts to delay passing a law or give voters and counties more time to adjust to ID requirements.

Voters decided on Nov. 6 to add a requirement for photo ID to the state constitution. Democrats said Wednesday the constitutional amendment doesn’t require immediate changes.

Republicans released a draft of the bill last week, and public debate began this week.

“This rush over just a few days is not the careful, thoughtful approach” legislators should take, said Sen. Mike Woodard, a Durham Democrat.

Sen. Joyce Krawiec, a Kernersville Republican and a bill sponsor, said the amendment required a law by next year.

“It’s not that we’re rushing,” she said. “We have a mandate to do that, and that’s what we’re doing.”

After a final Senate vote, the bill goes to the House for consideration.

Gov. Roy Cooper said Wednesday he didn’t like voter ID requirements, but wouldn’t say whether he would veto the bill.

“I think that we need to expand ways for our citizens to vote and I think that voter ID, it is a solution for no problem,” he said during a public appearance announcing the relocation of Advance Auto Parts corporate headquarters to Raleigh. “There is no problem. I think it is wrong for our state.”

An audit of 4.8 million votes cast in the 2016 general election found one case of in-person voter impersonation.

Democrats were solidly against putting the voter ID amendment on the November ballot. The proposed law picked up a few Democratic votes Wednesday from Sen. Joel Ford of Charlotte, who was one of the bill sponsors, Sen. Ben Clark of Raeford and Sen. Don Davis of Greenville.

The requirements are less strict than a 2013 state voter ID law that was thrown out by a federal appeals court in 2016. The new proposal expands acceptable IDs to include student IDs from UNC schools, as well as IDs from community colleges, private universities, and municipal governments that meet state requirements. Driver’s licenses, military IDs, tribal enrollment cards, and cards the DMV issues to people who don’t drive were in the 2013 law and are part of the new proposal.

A new type of ID available free from local elections boards could also be used to vote.

IDs expired for less than a year could still be used, and people over 65 would be able to use expired IDs that were valid on their 65th birthdays.

Senate Republicans made some changes to the proposal that Democrats suggested.

The Senate approved a suggestion from Sen. Floyd McKissick of Durham that would extend the time victims of natural disasters would be allowed to sign affidavits rather than show IDs to vote from 60 to 100 days.

People who are not able to obtain acceptable IDs would be able to vote after signing affidavits stating why. At McKissick’s suggestion, Senate Republicans brought back a section of the 2013 law that presented a list of obstacles that would prevent a voter from obtaining a photo ID.

Some residents remain strongly opposed to voter ID.

At a Senate committee meeting Wednesday, Durham resident Emily Wilkins illustrated problems older people have getting photo IDs when they don’t drive.

Wilkins said she took her mother-in-law’s 70-year-old sister to a DMV office, and they had to wait five hours for to get an ID. For part of that time there was no place to sit.

“I am deeply concerned that DMVs are underfunded,” Wilkins said after the committee meeting.

Lynn Bonner has worked at The News & Observer since 1994, and has written about the state legislature and politics since 1999. Contact her at lbonner@newsobserver.com or (919) 829-4821.


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