On November 6, 2018, six amendments to the state constitution will be up for the public vote. While I would recommend a “no” vote on all of the amendments, let’s focus on the state legislature’s revived attempt to require photo identification in order to cast one’s ballot. It is troubling that, as of the publication of this column, the General Assembly has not yet written the actual bill nor is there any plan to write the amendment before it is actually voted on. In other words, the people of North Carolina are being asked to vote on an amendment that lacks a written proposal.
The last time that the General Assembly instituted a voter identification law, it was struck down by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2016, as it was designed to “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.” You may recall that the General Assembly had first requested specific data on voting practices of different racial groups before writing the law in such a way that it disproportionately restricted Black voters. We can expect that this amendment has the same intention, despite the usual song and dance from the legislature that the law is about preventing voter fraud. You know, in the same way that literacy tests ensured that voters were “qualified?”
The lack of evidence for significant voter fraud does not dissuade the legislature from their cause: after all, there could be voter fraud that we are not aware of, just as there could be a teapot orbiting the Sun somewhere between Earth and Mars. We may not have any positive indication of its existence, but nonetheless the General Assembly is quite insistent that it be allowed to write itself a blank check to find that teapot.
The General Assembly has made it entirely clear that it has no interest in fair, democratic practices, between concerted efforts to disenfranchise Black voters and to gerrymander voting districts. These efforts speak to the General Assembly’s interest in maintaining and expanding its own power, as well as in serving the moneyed interests that ensure this power. The integrity of the electoral process that they claim to defend has already been thoroughly defiled by their own hands.
I would advise the reader to vote against the proposed amendment to institute voter identification laws — even if you support requiring a form of identification to vote. The assumption that the public should vote on an amendment before it is written is both absurd and dangerous. Approving the amendment would effectively give the legislature unlimited power to restrict access to voting in whatever way they see fit.