State legislature to discuss voter ID laws

A controversial voter ID law that could affect as many as one in 10 registered voters in North Carolina will be one of the issues discussed in the upcoming session of the N.C. General Assembly.

More than 600,000 registered voters, or 9.25 percent, could be affected by legislation requiring photo identification at the polls, according to a recent report from the State Board of Elections.

Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, chairman of the N.C. House election law committee, said a voter ID law is a priority for the Republican majority this session.

VOTER ID

612,955
total state residents who could be affected

208,442
residents aged 41 to 65 who could be affected

191,104
black residents who could be affected

“I do believe that the people of this state expect improved integrity in the election process,” he said.

Chris Moran, executive director at the Inter-Faith Council for Social Service in Carrboro, said the elderly and the disabled, who might no longer drive, are among those who will be affected.

He said the Division of Motor Vehicles offers a picture ID at no charge for the homeless, as long as they can provide two other forms of identification — a process that could take up to 12 weeks for some.

Losing the opportunity to vote is a form of poverty, he said.

“We want those individuals to feel the freedom of being able to go out and cast a vote,” he said.

Although Moran said it is a difficult process, the IFC strongly encourages its guests to exercise their voting rights, especially at the local level, he said.

But Lewis said the legislation will grant ample time for voters to obtain the proper identification.

“Any bill that we pass will make sure that any qualified voter will have access to a state-issued ID at no charge to them,” he said.

Rob Schofield, director of research and policy development for N.C. Policy Watch, is skeptical of voter ID laws and said there are few incidences of in person voter fraud nationwide.

“The right to vote is a precious Constitutional right and as a general rule government ought to be finding ways to make it easier to vote,” he said.

Lewis said he has been tasked with ensuring that there are complete and open committee hearings on the bill, taking feedback into consideration.

The final bill will ultimately be vetted in the interests of the public and voting rights groups, Lewis said.

But a voter ID law has opponents in Raleigh.

Rep. Rodney Moore, D-Mecklenburg, said it would disenfranchise elderly and minority voters.

The history of voter intimidation and suppression in many Southern states, including North Carolina, requires that any change in voting laws be reviewed by the U.S. Department of Justice, Moore said.

He said the proposed legislation is an attempt by conservatives to stymie minorities who aren’t traditional Republican voters.

“This legislation is a solution looking for a problem,” he said.

He added that there might be a softening stance on this issue among legislators, and the bill could allow for more varied forms of identification to be accepted at the polls.

Contact the desk editor at state@dailytarheel.com.

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