Senate passes Voter ID bill

People voting (AP)
June 15, 2011 7:26:53 PM PDT
North Carolina lawmakers are moving ahead with legislation to require people to show a photo identification card before voting.

A Senate judiciary committee approved the legislation Tuesday and the full Senate passed the bill Wednesday evening. The measure already has passed the House, but by a margin too small to override a potential veto by Gov. Beverly Perdue.

Perdue, a Democrat, has indicated she might veto the measure.

Republicans made the legislation part of their campaign platform last fall as they took control of both the House and Senate for the first time in 140 years, and GOP leaders of other states are pushing similar legislation.

Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) released a statement following Wednesday's vote saying, "Requiring voters to show a photo ID will boost their confidence and increase participation at the polls -- two things the governor should join most North Carolinians in supporting. If she is serious about protecting the integrity of elections instead of scoring political points with her liberal base, she will sign this bill."

Democrats and voting rights advocates say the voter ID legislation is a veiled attempt to suppress voting among blacks, older adults and women. It's already a felony for someone to vote using someone else's name.

In a statement released by the N.C. Center for Voter Education, Executive Director Damon Circosta questioned the integrity of voter identification.

"Protecting the integrity of our election system is vital to ensuring fair and open elections," Circosta said. "The laws and safeguards currently in place, including reasonable identification requirements coupled with felony-level penalties for voter impersonation, have successfully protected North Carolina against widespread fraud.

Circosta believes the bill is a poor solution and will not improving voting security, which is specifically designed to do.

"House Bill 351 is a solution in search of a problem, and a poor solution at that," he added. "In reality, the photo ID requirement in House Bill 351 would do little to improve the security of our election system. Rather, it would only place undue burdens on law-abiding North Carolina citizens, especially older voters, for whom getting a state-issued photo ID may be unfairly difficult.

The Executive Director goes on to say that too little resources are being allocated to educate voters about the new system.

"The bill also shortchanges North Carolina citizens, allocating just a dime per voter to educate the public about this significant change to long-established voting laws," he continued. "This proposed photo ID requirement is ill-conceived, unnecessary and could discourage legal, qualified voters from exercising their most fundamental right as Americans."

The state has about 556,000 registered voters who don't have identification issued by DMV, but it's unclear how many have alternative forms of qualifying IDs, according to researchers who work for the General Assembly.

The bill is modeled on a 2006 law in Georgia, which has been upheld by the courts.

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