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NC voters will need to show IDs starting next year following veto override

December 20, 2018

North Carolina voters will have to start carrying photo IDs with them to the polls, starting next year.

The House on Wednesday completed the legislative override of Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of rules to implement the new requirement, which voters added to the state constitution last month.

The 72-40 vote came after an hour of often heated debate, with Republicans calling Cooper’s move “intellectually shallow” and contemptuous of voters and Democrats calling Republicans racist.

Within minutes of the override, six voters filed a lawsuit in Wake County challenging the new requirement as an unconstitutional burden that will unnecessarily disenfranchise people.

Under the proposal, the following IDs would be acceptable at the polls:

All of those types of ID must be valid and either unexpired or expired for less than a year. Officials at universities, colleges and local government entities would be required to certify every four years that their processes for printing IDs are secure and that they have verified the age and citizenship status of ID holders.

The bill also allows the following forms of ID regardless of whether they carry expiration or issuance dates:

Cooper issued his veto last Friday, calling the bill “a solution in search of a problem.” He said the whole voter ID effort had “sinister and cynical origins,” citing a 2013 state voter ID law that federal courts later threw out after determining it was targeted at suppressing minority voting.

“The cost of disenfranchising those voters or any citizens is too high, and the risk of taking away the fundamental right to vote is too great, for this law to take effect,” Cooper said in his veto message.

Cooper’s statements angered Republican House members.

“It is clear that, after losing the battle of public opinion, the legislative process and a direct vote of the people, all the opponents of voter ID have left, including the governor, is name calling,” said Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett. “There is nothing sinister or cynical about [voters]. ... It’s clear that the governor does not have a problem with this legislature; he has a problem with his citizens.”

“You have shown contempt for the reasonable, hard-working people of North Carolina,” added Rep. Jimmy Dixon, R-Duplin. “Your arguments against this bill are simply intellectually shallow. ... You should hang your head in shame.”

House Minority Leader Darren Jackson criticized his GOP colleagues for glossing over North Carolina’s history of trying to prevent blacks from voting, noting the state’s 2013 voter ID law that federal courts threw out because it was aimed “with almost surgical precision” at suppressing minority voting.

“All that matters when we’re talking about changing people’s voting rights,” said Jackson, D-Wake.

Comments by Rep. Jeff Collins, R-Nash, that Democrats controlled state politics during the days of slavery and Jim Crow drew a sharp response from Rep. Grier Martin, D-Wake.

“Without a doubt, a lot of the racist policies of this state were passed by the Democratic Party,” Martin said. “Over history, though, many people in this state [and] throughout the South became disenchanted with some of the policies of the Democratic Party, in particular the policies ... that made it easier for minorities to vote. So, the racists left the Democratic Party and moved to a party where they could continue to oppose African-Americans voting.”

Collins asked if Martin had any documentation of Democrats switching to the GOP to suppress minority voting.

“Well, we’ve got several here that are getting ready to do that, so that will start your count,” Martin replied.

House Speaker Tim Moore cautioned Martin to abide by the chamber’s rules for decorum.

“Ask a stupid question,” Martin shot back, drawing another caution from Moore.

“Glad to hear all of this goodwill in the chamber,” Rep. Graig Meyer, D-Orange, joked during the debate. “I feel like I’m in a Dickens novel.”

The Senate voted 33-12 Tuesday to override the veto.

The lawsuit challenging the photo ID requirement alleges that it violates the Equal Protection Clause and other provisions of the state constitution.

“It is the legislature’s duty to balance competing demands in the state constitution. It has failed miserably in its exercise of balancing the new ID constitutional amendment, which explicitly allows for exceptions, with the numerous other state constitutional demands that have been interpreted to aggressively protect the right to vote,” Allison Riggs, a voting rights attorney with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, which is representing the voters in the lawsuit, said in a statement.

“Any legislative scheme that requires voters to present ID when voting must have fail-safe measures to ensure that not one single eligible voter is disenfranchised. Our state constitution demands it. This legislation does not do that. It simply replicates a scheme that we know disenfranchised approximately 1,400 voters in the March 2016 primaries,” Riggs said, referring to the 2013 law that was found unconstitutional.

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