After N.C. voters approved a constitutional amendment requiring a photo ID to vote in person with 55.5 percent of the vote, Republican General Assembly members have launched an attempt to pass the legislation before they lose their supermajority in January.
The current proposal requires voters to present a valid North Carolina drivers license, a U.S. passport, a North Carolina-issued voter ID card, a tribal enrollment card, a state or local employee ID card, a military ID card or a veteran ID card. Voters over the age of 65 can present an expired form of identification.
Student IDs from colleges within the UNC system and the North Carolina Community College system are also an accepted form of identification. Student IDs from eligible private colleges will also be accepted as long as they meet state requirements.
The proposed constitutional amendment text states the purpose of the voter ID requirement is to make sure the person voting is the person listed on the voter registration record. Former Gov. Pat McCrory said he was concerned about alleged voter fraud in North Carolina on his radio show.
“In my particular election, we had a lot of college students who were out-of-state college students vote," McCrory said. "And they could do it because there was no voter ID, which would have shown New Jersey license plates, Pennsylvania license plate, you name it. But their address was listed as a parking lot at Duke University or Queens University or at UNC-Charlotte. Because a large number of those students, especially at the private schools, are out-of-state students. And I couldn’t do a thing about it.”
But according to the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement website, college students may register and vote in the county where they attend college, or they can choose to remain registered at the address where they lived prior to moving away for college. Additionally, if a student registers at his or her school address, that registration cancels any previous registration in another county.
Billy Corriher, a senior researcher at the Institute for Southern Studies, said the General Assembly is trying to speed the legislative process along.
“The Senate Elections Committee passed a bill last night, less than an hour after it was made public,” Corriher said. “There was a draft introduced earlier this week, and some Democrats then introduced their own bill. The bill passed by the committee included more acceptable IDs, some that were suggested by Gerry Cohen and others at the public comment period Monday, as well as the Democrats’ bill."
The proposal passed the state Senate on Wednesday night with a vote of 32-11, but more debate is expected as the bill continues through the Senate and heads to the state House.
But the potential for a negative impact is not lost on many North Carolinians. The N.C. NAACP and other voter rights groups staged a protest on the rushed legislation by chanting, “lame ducks go home.”
Corriher further said the bill might create potential barriers to voting access for North Carolinians.
“Any time you’re adding new requirements to vote, some people won’t be able to satisfy those requirements," Corriher said. "There’s always the potential for people to be disenfranchised. And that’s especially a concern in North Carolina, where our 2013 voter ID law targeted Black voters with ‘almost surgical precision,’ according to the federal courts.”
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