Editorials

North Carolina’s voter ID hassle

Reba Bowser and her son, Ed, after he helped her fill out her voter registration application in Asheville. But she was turned away from the Asheville DMV office on Monday when she applied for the photo ID she'll need in order to vote in the March 15 primary.
Reba Bowser and her son, Ed, after he helped her fill out her voter registration application in Asheville. But she was turned away from the Asheville DMV office on Monday when she applied for the photo ID she'll need in order to vote in the March 15 primary. Amy Lee Knisley

Proponents of North Carolina’s new voter ID requirement are mystified as to why anyone would object to showing identification before casting a vote.

You have to show a photo ID for things much less important than voting, the say. And besides, almost everyone has a photo ID, and those who don’t can go to their local DMV office and get one free.

But this simple assumption did not hold up in the case of Reba Miller Bowser of Asheville. She is 86 and has voted without incident all her adult life while living in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. After she registered to vote in North Carolina, things got complicated. Her son took her to the DMV with a pile of ID papers, but she was told that her papers were unacceptable because of differences in her maiden and married name on separate documents.

Bowser’s rejection attracted wide attention after her daughter-in-law posted on Facebook about it. A DMV official later admitted, “We messed up on this one.” Bowser signed an affidavit and got an ID.

But this case is hardly isolated. Many women have changed names on documents because they took their husband’s surname. And getting it cleared up at DMV can be as complicated and frustrating as doing a lot of others things at DMV.

That’s why the voter ID isn’t common sense. It’s a common hassle for people who have the right to vote but now must go through time-consuming steps and spend money on documents before they can exercise that right.

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