Better Governing Now » No Idea about Voter ID

 

No Idea about Voter ID


Tom Campbell
    No one in authority has said why both houses of our legislature mysteriously, rapidly and overwhelmingly passed modifications to their 2013 election law changes or why Governor McCrory just as unceremoniously signed them into law. The trial challenging voter ID and other provisions was due to begin shortly and the changes left the judge, lawyers on both sides and the public trying to determine how to proceed.

    Many possible scenarios have been concocted to explain the change.

    In 2013, we were told changes to our elections laws were necessary to prevent voter fraud. The part of that legislation that drew the most pushback was the requirement that every voter present a proper form of identification. Some postulate that nobody could firmly establish significant voter fraud under the old laws, effectively rendering the 2013 changes unnecessary.

    One explanation for the recent changes is that DMV workers were making it both difficult to obtain the identification promised in the earlier legislation and, in some instances, charging fees for what was promised to be a free picture ID.

    Many polls have reported that a majority has no problem presenting a valid ID but it is possible our lawmakers have gotten such an earful from constituents that they feared election repercussions next year. Some speculate NAACP president William Barber and his Moral Monday movement was having a big impact and to shut them up it was best to modify the law to eliminate their charges of discrimination.

    The rationale most frequently advanced is that lawmakers had been told they were going to lose the case in court and decided to get out front of the decision by amending the law.

    What they passed could lead to even more problems. During early voting those wanting to cast ballots without a valid ID are to be "helped" in getting mail-in ballots, essentially circumventing the ID law, because mailed votes don't require identification. Further, those who come to the polls on Election Day can sign an affidavit affirming they had a "reasonable impediment," and could not obtain a valid ID. What is reasonable? Voters could say they could not get off work, had been ill, do not have any legitimate birth certificate or Social Security card, among eight identified reasons. We can just envision some voter saying their dog ate their ID and demanding they be allowed to vote.

    This new addendum to our election laws creates at least two problems. Rather than clearing up the process we are giving precinct registrars a great deal of discretion and we can easily envision abuses during often-hectic election days. These provisional ballots must then be sent to the county board of elections, requiring more discretion and delays as these officials attempt to authenticate them so as to certify winners in elections.

    We agree with the Civitas Institute. This is the first time a state ever lost a Voter ID court case. North Carolina did so without going to trial.

    There may have been good reason to change the law but this is a good government issue with us. Without a plausible explanation to the contrary reasonable people are likely to conclude the 2013 legislation was indeed politically and perhaps even racially motivated. Legislators would be better off fessing up and telling us the truth.

    Publisher's note: Tom Campbell is former assistant North Carolina State Treasurer and is creator/host of NC SPIN, a weekly statewide television discussion of NC issues airing Sundays at 11:00 am on WITN-TV. Contact Tom at NC Spin.





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