NC voter ID bill moving ahead with Supreme Court ruling

Posted June 25, 2013

— Voter identification legislation in North Carolina will pick up steam again now that the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down part of the Voting Rights Act, a key General Assembly leader said Tuesday.

A bill requiring voters to present one of several forms of state-issued photo ID starting in 2016 cleared the House two months ago, but it's been sitting since in the Senate Rules Committee to wait for a ruling by the justices in an Alabama case, according to Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, the committee chairman. He said a bill will now be rolled out in the Senate next week.

The ruling essentially means a voter ID or other election legislation approved in this year's session probably won't have to receive advance approval by U.S. Justice Department attorneys or a federal court before such measures can be carried out.

"I guess we're safe in saying this decision was what we were expecting," Apodaca said.

In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled a key provision of the federal law cannot be enforced unless Congress changes rules on which areas of the country still need to be monitored.

The "pre-clearance" requirement in Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act covered many areas of the South, including 40 North Carolina counties, mostly in the east. That has required laws approved by the General Assembly for both statewide elections and local elections in those counties, as well as redistricting maps, to receive formal approval. The requirement was designed to ensure that minority voters in those areas aren't worse off compared to previous law.

Apodaca said the Senate didn't want the legal headaches of having to go through pre-clearance if it wasn't necessary and having to determine which portions of the proposal would be subject to federal scrutiny. "So, now we can go with the full bill," he added.

He predicted an omnibus voting bill would surface in the Senate next week that could go beyond voter ID to include issues such as reducing early voting, eliminating Sunday voting and barring same-day voter registration.

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Republican lawmakers and allies say a clear majority of citizens want voter ID because it will build confidence in the election system. Democratic legislators and civil rights advocates have criticized any photo ID bill as another barrier to free voting that attempts to remediate a voter fraud problem that doesn't exist.

Bob Phillips, executive director of voter advocacy group Common Cause North Carolina, said he was disappointed by the Supreme Court ruling. Federal review was a safety check that protected minority voters' rights, he said.

"Without the U.S. Justice department to look at these things and play the referee and say, 'This is a foul. This is not good,' without that, I really fear that we will see a lot of bad laws passed and put into place that will make voting harder and be harmful," Phillips said.

Attorney General Roy Cooper said the state can still be sued if its voting laws disproportionately affect minority voters.

"The legislature needs be very careful before it starts restricting the places people can vote, the times people can vote, the requirements for people to vote," Cooper said.

The ruling doesn't prevent voters and groups from challenging state laws. The Justice Department signed off on North Carolina's legislative and congressional maps approved by the General Assembly in 2011, but several groups and dozens of voters challenged the maps in state court. A three-judge panel is still weighing those arguments.

The Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, one of the plaintiffs that sued over the 2011 maps, urged Congress to redo the formula so that areas of the country with a history of racial discrimination will still be monitored closely.

"Clearly, the avalanche of attacks we are seeing leveled at voting rights and the intense attempts at voter suppression in state houses around the country remain a constant reminder of the constitutional and moral necessity for Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act," Barber wrote in an email.

Other civil rights organizations and Democratic officials also lamented the ruling.

"With attempts to suppress voting becoming more common and more sophisticated across the country and North Carolina’s legislature poised to approve legislation that will make it harder for thousands of eligible state voters to cast a ballot by requiring forms of ID that many North Carolinians lack and cannot easily obtain, the need for such protections is more urgent than ever," Jennifer Rudinger, state president for the American Civil Liberties Union, said in statement.

Rudinger said North Carolina voters will be "vulnerable" unless Congress acts quickly to update the Voting Rights Act.

More than 60 local or statewide election laws in North Carolina dating back to the 1970s that haven't been enforced due to Section 5 objections by the Justice Department. They include a provision in the state constitution requiring a literacy test for voter registration in North Carolina.

Sen. Pete Brunstetter, R-Forsyth, previously introduced a bill that would take those laws off the books in light of what was then an expected ruling. Brunstetter said Tuesday he'd like to see the bill advance this year.


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  • Crumps Br0ther Jun 27, 2013

    Let see, if you need assistance Im sure you can procur all the necessary documents to get it. If you can do that, then you can do what you need to do to vote, if its that important to do. Responsibilty for yourself isnt as scary as it sounds.

    I dont see how showing ID one place is disenfranchizing but you have no problem showing it somewhere.

    Libs dont want this because then it will be easier to track their leech and deadbeat voters.

  • Crumps Br0ther Jun 27, 2013


    "so how do all you freedom haters [VOTER ID SUPPORTERS] justify your support for voter id when in fact voter id is merely more big govment, more intrusive govment, another major loss of freedom-"

    How is showing ID a loss of freedom? Tell your pharmacist that when you need your scrip.

    This is a simple problem to fix. The opposition you have to this with no good reasons to support it tells me there is more to this than you want to say. The opther thing I dont understand is you enable people and hold their hands on everything else but you stop at this. It doesnt make any sense. You give these people the world but not an ID?

  • Crumps Br0ther Jun 27, 2013

    Lets be honest the only reason the republicans are doing this is because they are upset we still have a strong intelligent Black man in the people's house in Washington DC.
    Proud Liberal

    When in doubt play the race card, its the only thing you got when you can't win your argument. People are sick of it and every time you do it, it looses strength. Barry is a FAILURE and continues to fail. He is incompetent and a liar, his approval rating are dipping. But thats all someone else fault isnt it? I guess when you have the race card you never have to take responsibilty. Pathetic and weak. And Barry is far from strong.

  • geosol Jun 26, 2013

    Apodaca's remarks that the REPUBLICANS were waiting for this decision before they resumed the push for voter suppression laws will become very important when NC is sued for enacting this discriminatory law. If the little "voter ID" law had nothing to do with racial discrimination, why did the REPUBLICANS feel like they had to wait for this particular SC decision to resume their quest?

  • Proud Liberal Jun 26, 2013

    Lets be honest the only reason the republicans are doing this is because they are upset we still have a strong intelligent Black man in the people's house in Washington DC.

  • junkmail5 Jun 26, 2013

    Junk times change.

    For the worse in this case

    @junkie..Maybe you should run for an elective office- onlymy2cents

    I'd stand no chance in an election.

    I'm actual reasonable on nearly every issue.

    Which means the republicans AND the democrats would dislike me for half my positions.

    For example I strongly support the 2nd amendment, but don't care which two consenting adults get married.

    I don't believe in wasting money regardless of it's wasted on voter ID or improving self esteem.

    I don't believe in violating the 4th amendment via the NSA regardless of a republican or democratic president is in the white house.

    and so on.

    So I'm a total non-starter for either party, and there's no viable third party in this country (nor is there likely to be with the first past the post voting system we use)

  • ykm Jun 26, 2013

    Junk times change.

  • onlymy2cents Jun 26, 2013

    @junkie..Maybe you should run for an elective office and do something constructive about it instead of coming on golo and whining about the waste of money by our legislature. 19 posts to say the same thing over are old and boring. But thanks for being a chicken little and informing all the sky is falling where you are standing. ;)

  • junkmail5 Jun 26, 2013

    Actually the government doesn't tell you "how" to vote....just to show yer ID.

    Right... so the 10% of the population that got along fine without a current ID is suddenly BEING TOLD by the government they MUST get one to exercise the same RIGHT they exercised without one their entire adult life.

    (and that we haven't required for over 200 years of voting, without issues)

  • Sandbar33 Jun 26, 2013

    "so, at the end of the day all you voter id supporters actually favor big govment, the govment telling you what to do and how to do it. voter id supporters have surely drank deeply from the koolaid and in fact are blinded by thier desire for more govment rules and regulations."

    Actually the government doesn't tell you "how" to vote....just to show yer ID.