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The Daily Tar Heel

Like many of you, I voted early at Rams Head Dining Hall last week. But the next time I show up to vote in North Carolina, there’s a good chance I’ll need to bring a government-issued photo ID with me to the polls.

That will depend on whether Republican Pat McCrory or Democrat Walter Dalton wins the governor’s race.

In 2011, Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue vetoed the Restore Confidence in Government Act, a voter ID bill backed by the Republicans in the General Assembly. And in an interview with MSNBC, Perdue said blocking voter ID legislation was “the major win for Democrats in North Carolina this year.” Similar bills have become law in Republican-controlled states around the country since 2010.

Republicans are expected to maintain control of the N.C. General Assembly, and — if the polls are right — McCrory is almost certain to be the next N.C. governor.

McCrory is an unabashed supporter of voter ID legislation because he believes it will protect the integrity of the ballot box. Dalton is opposed to it because he says there’s not enough evidence that voter fraud is a serious problem.

An analysis by Democracy N.C., a nonpartisan group, shows that hundreds of thousands of active registered voters in North Carolina could have been disenfranchised by the voter ID bill passed last year. The State Board of Elections found only five votes per one million cast in North Carolina between 2004 and 2010 where the voter ID law would have prevented fraud.

“This isn’t just like buying a pack of cigarettes,” said Bob Hall, executive director for Democracy N.C. “Voting is a constitutional right.”

While requiring a voter ID might be bad policy, it’s still good politics. A recent WRAL/SurveyUSA poll found that 69 percent of registered N.C. voters support a voter ID.

“It seems like common sense when you first hear it. It looks like a positive move to protect the vote,” Hall said.

But voter ID is one of the most brazenly partisan political issues to dominate the post-2010 landscape because the laws appear to be designed to suppress turnout among Democratic-leaning voting blocs — including minorities and low-income voters — who are more likely to lack an ID.

So the Republican Party has a vested interest in pushing concerns about “voter integrity,” while the Democratic Party is motivated by self-interest to attack GOP efforts to “disenfranchise American citizens.”

The greatest hypocrisy in this debate is that N.C. Republicans also eliminated about $600,000 from the 2012 budget that, if spent, would have automatically released $4 million in federal money for updating the state’s election system.

If we’re serious about restoring confidence in the ballot box, North Carolina’s next governor should instead consider improving electronic voting and modernizing our voter registration system, both of which could actually reduce voting fraud without raising concerns about voter suppression.

Stewart Boss is a columnist from the Daily Tar Heel. He is a senior public relations and public policy major from Bethesda, Md. Contact him at sboss91@live.unc.edu.

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