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Voter ID bill passes the Senate


Voter ID bill passes the Senate

Dec 14, 2018 12:00 AM
By Jasmine Gallup

A bill requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls landed on Gov. Roy Cooper's desk last week, following its passage in the North Carolina Senate on Dec. 6.

State legislators passed the bill after the general election in November, when 55.5 percent of state residents and 61.4 percent of Lee County residents voted in favor of a constitutional amendment to require photo ID to vote. With the law, N.C. joins the 17 other states that have photo ID laws, including Virginia, Georgia and Tennessee.

Under the legislation, valid forms of ID would include drivers licenses, passports, state-issued ID cards, state and municipal employee IDs, tribal enrollment cards or student IDs. The bill would also require county boards of elections to issue free photo ID cards to voters upon request.

Lee County Board of Elections Director Parker Holland said staff would have to wait and see what happens with the bill, but if voter ID is implemented, the first step would be to learn about new equipment issued by the state and begin training precinct workers.

He said the county would "absolutely" have enough time to implement the new legislation before the 2019 municipal elections.

"This would be the second time we've implemented photo ID, so we'll just see what happens," Holland said. "We have amazing precinct workers, they catch on to everything very quickly. They're used to having to adapt and to change and I'm sure they'll do a great job with it."

The previous voter ID law, implemented in 2013, was struck down by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2016, with judges saying it targeted African-American voters. Opponents of voter ID laws have said it could discriminate against or disenfranchise voters. Some Republican lawmakers who argued in favor of voter ID said it prevents voter fraud and makes elections more secure.

The voter ID bill passed the House in a 67-40 vote, split mostly along party lines.

Democratic Rep. Robert Reives II, who currently represents Chatham County and a small part of Lee County, said he voted against the bill because he didn't think it was the kind of bill voters were expecting when they voted in favor of the constitutional amendment.

"It picks winners and losers, in my opinion," Reives said. "There's a lot of inconsistencies in how they determine what IDs would be valid, what IDs would not be valid."

Reives said he thinks the process of passing the bill should have been more deliberate, and that it ultimately should have been drafted by the new General Assembly rather than in a lame duck session.

Republican Sen. Ronald Rabin, who will not be part of the new General Assembly after declining to run for re-election in 2018, voted in favor of the photo ID bill and said it reflected the will of the people. Rabin represents District 12, which covers Lee, Harnett and Johnston counties.

"The people in North Carolina, obviously the majority, want voter ID laws," he said. "And what the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals is going to say if they turn this one down is that they do not respect the desires of the people at all. It's simply a judicial brouhaha that I think is ideologically driven by a very liberal court.

"The idea is to reduce voter fraud, which I happen to believe exists far more than people are willing to admit," Rabin said.

Republican Senator-elect Jim Burgin, who will represent District 12 in the new session, agreed that voter ID protects election security.

"I think it makes all of our votes that much more valuable and protected by having voter ID," he said. "I think there's been about every consideration you can possibly give so that no-one can say they're disenfranchised ... if you show up and you don't have anything, you still get to vote."

Under the legislation, voters can cast a provisional ballot without an ID and present a valid form of photo ID later on.

The question of election security and voter fraud has come under particular scrutiny amid an investigation into fraud in North Carolina's 9th District. Following allegations of fraud with mail-in absentee ballots, House Republicans amended the voter ID bill to require photo ID for absentee ballots as well as for in-person voting.

The voter fraud investigation in Bladen and Robeson counties is ongoing, as the state board of elections has yet to certify the November election results there, where it appears Republican Mark Harris won over Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes in the Congressional race.

With a new election likely, Harnett County Republican Rep. David Lewis introduced a separate bill this week precluding the use of voter ID in a repeat of the 9th District contest. The legislation, which passed Wednesday, would also require another primary for the new election, ensure the fraud investigation will continue uninterrupted and eventually change the structure of the state board of elections and ethics enforcement, among other provisions.

Reives said the investigation in the 9th District only highlights the election security issues the General Assembly should have focused on instead of voter ID. In the last two years, he said, he was not apprised of one instance of voter fraud where the issue was photo ID.

"To me, if you are serious about voter security, there are 100 other issues that we need to address," he said. "If you're serious about voter fraud, we've been given the perfect example of where our weaknesses are in our voting mechanism."

Having passed the House and Senate, the voter ID bill awaits the governor's signature or veto.

Reach Staff Writer Jasmine Gallup at 919-718-1217.

Jim Burgin For Senate Committee
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