Raleigh, N.C. — Lawmakers start their last week of work for the legislative session tonight. As legislators look to wrap up unfinished business, a key House leader says its unlikely that a new voter ID bill will be forthcoming this year.
"It's gone," said Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, who chairs the committee which oversees election laws and would have been the point person to shepherd a new voter ID bill through the House.
Under current law, most voters do not have to show ID when they come to the polls. Under a version of voter ID bill that Gov. Bev Perdue, a Democrat, vetoed last year, most voter would have to provide photo identification before casting a ballot.
Proponents of the measure say voter ID would help make sure people don't vote in the name of others or cast ballots when they're not qualified to do so. Opponents say there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud and ID laws would disproportionately keep poor, elderly and college-age voters from casting ballots.
The House has thus far been unable to override Perdue's veto. House Speaker Thom Tillis has said he was very eager to find a compromise this year, mentioning his hopes in multiple interviews. A compromise bill would have allowed voters to show documents other than a photo ID, such as utility bills, when voting.
But it now appears that hope of compromise is mostly gone thanks to the calendar. Any change to statewide voting law would have to be pre-cleared by the U.S. Justice Department or the courts. The DOJ could take up to 120 days before taking action, which at this point would run right into early voting for the fall general election.
"Honestly, we've been advised the chances of it being pre-cleared prior to early voting are slim, making it not worth pursuing," Lewis said. Other lawmakers and legislative staff confirm this assessment.
In addition to the pre-clearance calendar, the legislative session calendar is also working against Republicans. Any controversial bill -- which a new voter ID measure would be -- would eat of lots of legislative time already allocated to wrapping up other business.
While they are giving up on a compromise measure, House Republicans could still attempt to override Perdue's veto on the original voter ID bill this week. However, assuming no Democrats have flipped on the issue, all the House minority has to do is ensure their members show up for one more week of floor sessions to stave off a vote.