A bill requiring Texans to show photo identification before voting passed the Texas House on Wednesday. As it heads for the Texas Senate, the debate over a similar bill is heating up in North Carolina.
The “Voter ID” bill as it’s being called is a provision in the larger Restore Confidence in Government Act. This provision would require all NC voters to show a government issued photo ID before they’re allowed to enter a voting booth.
As in Texas, where debate has turned into shouting matches, some are contesting the bill because they view it as another roadblock making it more difficult for registered voters to cast a ballot. Some are even going as far as to liken it to tactics used during the civil rights movement to prevent African American voters from having their say.
In an interview with WBTV-Charlotte, Dr. Patrick Graham, who heads the Urban League of the Central Carolinas said, “You would have a class of people who are legal residents who would not be able to vote simply because they don’t have a state issued ID.”
That’s 460,000 North Carolinians to be exact. That’s how many active voters the State Board of Elections says are active voters with no photo ID issued by the state Division of Motor Vehicles.
North Carolina Senator Malcolm Graham (D-Mecklenburg) and fellow Democrats think the bill unfairly targets elderly and Democratic voters. As validation of their concerns, an analysis of those numbers by the non-partisan group Democracy North Carolina found that a third of those people are 65 and older and two thirds are Democrats.
Republicans say tougher voter ID laws are needed to prevent fraud. Democrats say the effort is designed to boost GOP margins by keeping Democratic-leaning voters, less likely to have ID, away from the polls.
State Rep. Ric Killian, (R-Mecklenburg), helped sponsor the bill and he’s insulted anyone would oppose it:
There have been some people who are trying to assert that this is intended to suppress votes, which is nonsense. It’s intended to ensure that people simply are who they are.
There is also buzz on college campuses as to the effect the bill might have on young voters. Bob Hall, Executive Director for Democracy North Carolina, agrees that student concerns are well-founded. “It could dramatically affect students in different ways,” he says. In a conversation with the Daily Tar Heel, the UNC-Chapel Hill student-run publication, he went on to note:
If it requires a government-sponsored ID, private university student ID cards will not be considered valid; Public university student ID cards would be acceptable, unless the bill requires an address on the card; and students might not be able to vote in the county of their school if their driver’s license address is from another county or state.
Currently under consideration by the House Elections Committee, the bill may move out of committee for a full House vote. The local NAACP is already calling for a veto. They want Governor Bev Perdue to pull out the veto pen since there are enough voting laws on the books.