House OKs voter ID rules
Legislation setting the rules for the recently approved constitutional amendment requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls is one vote away from passage after the House approved the measure Wednesday.
The House voted 67-40 in favor of Senate Bill 824 after nearly three hours of often impassioned debate. Reps. Duane Hall, D-Wake, and Ken Goodman, D-Richmond, voted for the measure, while Rep. Jonathan Jordan, R-Ashe, voted against it.
The bill now heads back to the Senate, which must vote to accept or reject the changes made in the House.
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:
The list of acceptable IDs is much less stringent than what was included in a 2013 law that was later thrown out by federal courts as focused on trying to suppress minority voting. But some Republicans said the bill goes too far.
“One person, one vote [is] not protected here,” Jordan said. “The breathtakingly wide array of entities allowed to issue a statutorily valid photo identification document means that this bill is not [election] security, in my opinion.”
Some lawmakers tried to eliminate student IDs from the accepted list, insisting that they are easy to fake. Rep. Michael Speciale, R-Craven, even held up what he said was a fake ID from Wake Technical Community College that he was able to order online.
“These cards are easy to get, and I think it’s defeating the purpose, the whole purpose, of voter ID,” Speciale said.
On the other side of the aisle, Democrats disputed the need for a voter ID law at all, saying it would unnecessarily prevent some poor, minority and elderly people from voting.
“If we have to go back to the streets again to get an impediment-free right to vote, I’ll spend the rest of my life doing it,” said Rep. Mickey Michaux, D-Durham, a veteran of the civil rights movement.
Rep. Darren Jackson, D-Wake, also noted that the focus on presenting an ID at the polls wouldn’t solve the potential of fraud among mail-in absentee ballots, which is the focus of a state investigation in the 9th Congressional District.
“I’m sure it is slightly embarrassing to the majority that talks constantly about preventing voter fraud that an election may have been stolen in southeastern North Carolina by their operatives, and it’s a shame that we’re not willing to stand up and address that,” Jackson said.
The proposal does call for absentee voters to eventually be required to send a photocopy of the ID along with their ballot.
“We do need to get a handle on voting by mail,” agreed Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, who called the 9th District investigation an embarrassment.
The legislation is “an important first step to making sure problems like that do not occur again,” he added.
House Speaker Tim Moore took the rare step of coming down from the dais to debate the bill on the floor and recognized the often personal tone the voter ID debate has taken on over the years.
“You’ll hear one side yell, ‘Voter suppression.’ You’ll hear one side yell, ‘You want to encourage voter fraud,’” Moore said. “This is an issue where folks need to put all that down [and] come together – come to an agreement for something that, I believe, with this legislation, is a very fair resolution.”
Moore was criticized later for holding a final vote on the bill before Democrats could object.
The bill allows three exceptions to the photo ID requirement: a religious objection to have a photo taken, a natural disaster that occurs with 100 days of an election or a reasonable impediment to obtaining an ID.
A “reasonable impediment” includes a lost or stolen ID or a disability or family or work responsibilities that make getting an ID difficult. For elections in 2019, not knowing the new ID requirement also would be accepted as a reasonable impediment.
Anyone meeting one of the three exceptions would be allowed to vote a provisional ballot after signing an affidavit under penalty of perjury that he or she is the person allowed to vote who appeared at the polling place and stating the reason for not having a photo ID. County elections officials would then decide whether to count each provisional ballot.