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Details of NC’s new voter ID requirement still need to be worked out

November 8, 2018

North Carolina voters on Tuesday agreed to write into the state constitution a requirement that people show photo identification before being allowed to vote.

What exactly that means for future elections and state voters still must be determined, however.

Lawmakers plan to return to Raleigh after Thanksgiving to hammer out details such as the types of IDs that will be accepted.

Pat Ryan, a spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, said legislative leaders are already drafting legislation for that special session and will spend the couple of weeks reviewing legal precedent and the best practices from other states with voter ID laws.

Mitch Kokai, senior political analyst for the conservative John Locke Foundation, said more than 30 others states require an ID to vote.

“I think voter ID is a common-sense measure to help ensure election integrity,” Kokai said Wednesday, calling North Carolina’s current process requiring a voter to state his or her name and address “an honor system.”

Although the State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement found only one case of voter impersonation in the 2016 elections – out of 4.8 million ballots cast – that would have been prevented by a photo ID requirement, Kokai said the amount of voter fraud that occurs is hard to quantify.

“No one wants to stop people who are registered and eligible from voting. That’s not the intent. The intent is to stop people from employing voter fraud to cast a ballot,” he said of the voter ID requirement.

Republican lawmakers have put forward that same argument for years, and they included a voter ID requirement in a 2013 package of elections reforms. But IDs were checked at the polls during only the 2016 primary election before federal courts rejected most of the provisions of that 2013 law as unconstitutional, saying they were aimed at reducing the number of minority voters.

The state NAACP and other groups opposed to voter ID insist that claims of voter fraud are overblown. They filed a legal challenge this summer to prevent the proposal from going on the ballot, and they aren’t giving up, even after the amendment has been approved.

“Voter fraud is incredibly rare. You’re more likely to be struck by lightning than experience voter fraud,” said Sarah Gillooly, director of political strategy and advocacy for the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. “Our system works, and this constitutional amendment is absolutely unnecessary and runs a risk of disenfranchising eligible voters.

“When we look at the data, we know that the North Carolinians who are most likely to lack a [state Division of Motor Vehicles] issued identification are black and brown North Carolinians, disabled North Carolinians and transgender North Carolinians,” she added.

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