GOP outlines voter ID bill
RALEIGH — North Carolina House Republicans said Thursday their proposal to require voters to show photo identification to cast ballots would be phased in over three years and takes into account the apprehensions of older adults, the disabled and the poor.
GOP legislators, holding a news conference to unveil details of a bill introduced later in the day, said the legislation’s details reflected in part what they heard at a public hearing last month and from advocacy groups.
But even as the overwhelming number of speakers at the hearing opposed photo ID, and civil rights groups vow to fight any such requirement in court, House Speaker Thom Tillis said his chamber would move ahead with the measure. The House Elections Committee will hold a public hearing on the bill next week, and it could pass the House by April 23, according to one of Tillis’ top lieutenants.
“Make no mistake about it — the core principles that went into filling this bill are ones that we’re staying close to,” said Tillis, R-Mecklenburg. “We will respectfully address the concerns of groups on either end of the spectrum, but we’re going to keep this tight and we’re going to live up to what we said.
Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue vetoed a photo ID requirement in 2011. But Republicans now have veto-proof majorities in the House and Senate, and GOP Gov. Pat McCrory supports photo ID.
Republican legislators have cited polls supporting voter ID and worries from constituents about potential fraud. But Democrats and others argue photo ID is an unconstitutional obstacle to voting that attempts to address a problem that doesn’t exist in North Carolina.
The “legislation remains what it has always been - part of a larger cynical and partisan effort by the Republican Party to pick and choose who can vote that is driven by their selfish desire for political gain,” House Minority Leader Larry Hall, D-Durham, said in a news release.
The legislation will require people starting with the 2016 e lections to show one of eight government-issued forms of photo identification or a tribal ID card that was issued or expired no more than 10 years ago, whichever is later. UNC-system or community college student IDs also qualify. People who don’t show an ID would be able to cast a provisional ballot that would be counted if they provided a card later.
Older adults could use an ID that hasn’t expired by the time they are 70 for the rest of their lives. People with permanent physical and mental disabilities also wouldn’t need a photo ID.
The three-year lag will give State Board of Elections officials the ability to hire up to 14 workers to help a new state advisory board alert voters about the new requirements. Until 2016, voters who don’t show an ID won’t be prevented from casting ballots.
The bill says the state will pay for a $10 state ID card issued by the Division of Motor Vehicles and copies of other identifying records such as a birth certificate needed to obtain the card for people too poor to afford them. The measure also requires identifying information to discourage fraud for mail-in absentee ballot requests by requiring an applicant to give a driver’s license number or the last four digits of a Social Security number.
Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett and the elections committee chairman, said the bill shows that Republicans have listened to the public.
“What we’ve heard is if you’re concerned about the integrity of the election process, don’t leave absentee out. We didn’t. It’s in this bill. We’ve addressed that,” Lewis said. “We’ve heard don’t leave folks behind who don’t have an ID,” and so there’s an aggressive outreach to those people, he said.
Lewis said long-term costs are unclear because it’s unknown how many people will need financial help. Bill critics say hundreds of thousands of people may not have IDs and that paying for them would create a “poll tax” similar to one that discouraged black residents from voting during the Jim Crow era. Voter ID supporters say t he number of people without IDs is much lower and IDs are needed today to conduct business and government transactions
The measure is the latest in Republican-penned legislation that would reduce the popular 2½-week early voting period and eliminate Sunday voting and same-day registration during that period.
“We would like see a legislature that’s more focused on making sure that every eligible voter can actually get out and access the right to vote as opposed to making it a little more challenging,” said Sarah Preston, a lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union in North Carolina.