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The Daily Tar Heel

Editorial: Good riddance, voter ID law

Great news! In the North Carolina Republican Party’s latest attempt to circumvent the democratic process, justice has prevailed once again. 

Last November, about 55 percent of North Carolinians voted in favor of adding a voter ID amendment to the North Carolina Constitution.

But in February, a North Carolina judge struck down the amendment, noting that gerrymandering limited the power of the Republican-dominated General Assembly to implement such a policy. The decision stated that as a result of unconstitutional racial gerrymandering, the chain of popular sovereignty between lawmakers and constituents had been broken. 

The decision comes less than a year after the U.S. Supreme Court found that North Carolina citizens were not adequately represented as required by the U.S. Constitution. As a result of the General Assembly’s shameful efforts, gerrymandering has diluted voters’ voices such that they no longer have a claim to sovereignty. The proposed voter ID law would only exacerbate this lack of representation by robbing the less privileged of their right to vote. 

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time that the Republican-dominated N.C. legislature has tried to implement a discriminatory voting law. In 2016, a federal court ruled a North Carolina voter ID law unconstitutional because it prohibited public assistance and state employee IDs, disproportionately possessed by African-American voters. The decision was backed by the U.S. Supreme Court, who refused to hear the case. 

Voter ID laws have clear, tangible problems. For one, they statistically decrease voter turnout, particularly in minority populations. This is largely not a consequence of constituency laziness; rather, immigrant and minority voters face unique intersectional stressors that create lose-lose opportunity costs. For many, the lost work hours and cost of transportation is too much of a burden to bear. For others, the legitimacy of their identification put into question acts as a deterrent. According to a Caltech/MIT study, immigrant and minority voters are less likely to possess identification and more likely to be questioned about the validity of their possessed IDs. Cumulatively, voter ID laws act as a mechanism to suppress these traditionally Democrat-leaning votes of color.

But voter fraud is bad, and we want to get rid of it, right? Sounds like a valence issue. 

Sure, except widespread voter fraud isn’t actually happening – politicians on the right just like to pretend it is to justify policies of disenfranchisement and voter suppression. In fact, state investigators found that only 0.01 percent of ballots cast in the 2016 election should not have been counted. Rather than protecting the right to vote, voter ID laws effectively take it away, particularly from minority, poor and elderly voters. 

The North Carolina Republican Party’s ongoing efforts to strip marginalized communities of their rights is seemingly never-ending — and, quite frankly, it’s getting old. When will they ever give up? From racist voter ID laws and gerrymandering to the seriously problematic House Bill 2, the NCGOP is a stain on our reputation.