Opinion

The photo voter ID amendment is sloppy and illogical

What are the 6 NC constitutional amendments placed on the fall ballot?

The NC legislature is placing six constitutional amendments on the fall ballot. Here's a look at what North Carolinians will be voting on.
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The NC legislature is placing six constitutional amendments on the fall ballot. Here's a look at what North Carolinians will be voting on.

If you’re a registered voter in North Carolina, you were issued a voter card from your county board of elections. It contains some basic information about you, including your address, voting place, precinct and in which election districts you reside.

This is your official notification from your government that you are a registered voter.

And, if a constitutional amendment requiring a photo ID to vote passes in November, you probably won’t be able to use your voter card in 2020 to vote.

Got that? You probably won’t be able to use your official voter card to vote. How absurd is that? Because even though the card says you are a registered voter and gives your voter ID number, it doesn’t include a photo.

We say “probably” because no one really knows what happens if this constitutional amendment passes. The amendment says only that it would “require voters to provide photo identification before voting in person.” If the amendment passes, the legislature would decide, probably at a special session in November, what qualifies as identification.

So you’d find out after the vote about exactly what you voted on.

You couldn’t make this up. No serious governing body would take that approach. That’s not legislating; that’s grandstanding.

By the way, a previous law approved by the legislature did not allow voter cards as a form of identification (which is kind of like having a driver’s license that doesn’t enable you to drive). That was the law struck down by a panel of federal judges in 2016 who found the package of election laws included “provisions (that) target African Americans with almost surgical precision.”

Republicans say they want to stamp out voter fraud. How much voter fraud is there? The state Board of Elections audited the 2016 election and found that out of more than 4.7 million votes cast, one fraudulent vote probably would have been avoided with a photo voter ID law, The News & Observer’s Lynn Bonner reported. A Catawba County woman impersonated her deceased mother to vote for Donald Trump.

You might recall that President Trump appointed a commission to study 2016 voter fraud. It was disbanded after two meetings. Commission documents showed no evidence to support claims of widespread voter fraud, the Associated Press reported. It’s a felony to say you are someone you are not and then vote. That’s a powerful deterrent.

But OK, we’ll play along. Let’s say there’s limited voter fraud now but we want to head off a potential problem by taking precautionary measures. But any precautions can’t infringe upon North Carolinians’ right to vote, which is guaranteed by the state constitution. Strong democracies make voting as easy as possible.

Thousands of residents don’t have a driver’s license but especially the elderly, the disabled, the poor, minority residents and car-less urban dwellers. There are other documents that can identify a person — a utility bill, a bank statement, a fishing or hunting license or other government documents (even a government-issued voter card).

That N.C. legislators appear to have ruled out these other identifying documents reveals their motivation. It’s not about fighting voter fraud. It’s about hindering people who are less likely to vote Republican. Thirty-four states ask voters to show some form of identification but only seven states have what the National Conference of State Legislatures calls “strict” photo ID.

This constitutional amendment is a farce. It doesn’t clearly state what it would do. It cheapens the state constitution with partisan politics. It’s an insult to anyone who values good government and voting rights. It should be defeated.

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