North Carolina voters might have to prove their identity at the polls in the next elections if legislators pass a proposed bill.
Republican lawmakers presented a bill in 2009 that would require voters to present an ID each time they voted, but it died before it reached the N.C. Senate.
The newly Republican-dominated legislature will file a similar bill this week and N.C. Rep. Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, the bill’s sponsor, said it is expected to pass this time.
“The bill would simply require voters to present a form of identification when they vote,” he said. “It’s necessary to cut down voter fraud.”
Valid forms of identification will include a photo ID or a voter registration card, he said.
“My analysis is that if it’s something that would cost people money, that would be a problem,” Moore said.
But many Democrats say the bill is unnecessary and would promote discrimination and depress turnout.
Jennifer Frye, associate director of Democracy North Carolina — a nonpartisan organization that advocates protecting voter rights, among other issues — said that in 2008 there were only 18 cases of voter fraud out of 4.3 million votes in the state.
“Generally, we’re not in favor of a law that addresses a problem that does not exist,” Frye said. “It’s looking to us that this is a power grab of the Republican Party.”
Frye said she thinks the bill is being introduced to deter minorities — low-income voters, students and others who might have problems obtaining a photo ID and who lean Democratic — from voting.
N.C. voters currently have to provide ID upon registering to vote and are required to sign a written statement that they are legal to vote in each election.
Adding the new requirements would cost millions of dollars to the already-strained state budget, she said.
Johnnie McLean, deputy director of N.C. State Board of Elections, said there might be a high cost associated with the bill.
“It might be necessary to add additional personnel at the voter station to help process the voters,” she said. “Voter fraud is kind of like beauty — it probably lies in the eye of the beholder.”
But Moore said voting fraud happens more often then people realize.
“We don’t know how common it is because it is so difficult to prove. There is evidence that it happens regularly,” he said.
Although there is opposition facing the bill, including members of the Democratic Party, Moore said he hopes people will become more open to the idea as the process continues.
“It’s really just adding an extra level of voter integrity and voter security,” he said.
North Carolina is one of the few states that does not have a voter identification policy, and Ferrel Guillory, a journalism professor at UNC, said this is likely to change.
“Its chances of passing have improved since Republicans gained a majority in both the House and the Senate in the legislature,” he said.
“We’ve got a new political situation in Raleigh right now.”
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