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Voter ID: Partisanship or common sense?

Posted March 15, 2011

It was standing-room only in House Elections today for the public comment period on H351, the Voter ID proposal.   There was a lot of passion, some strong words and the occasional outbreak of applause, politely squelched by Chairman David Lewis. But overall, it went pretty smoothly. 

Contrary to fears some Democrats had expressed, the procession of 43 speakers seemed pretty evenly divided between opponents and supporters of the proposal. It was clear both sides had done some organizing work to get their people there.

"Nakedly partisan"

Earlier in the day, House Minority Leader Joe Hackney called H351 a “nakedly partisan” bill that would disproportionately affect older, younger, low-income and minority voters who might be inclined to vote for Democrats. “It’s about voter suppression,” he said bluntly. 

Many of this afternoon’s opponents delivered variations on that theme, including state NAACP President Rev. William Barber. “It is ridiculous, it is regressive, it is wrong, and it is a political form of racism and classism," Barber told the committee. "We need to stop this foolishness in the People’s House and work on jobs and education and the things that really matter.”

Retiree Dr. Martha Carmichael from Chapel Hill said no one’s asked her for a photo ID in 30 years. “I’m almost 80. I live in an old folks’ home,” she said. “Half the people where I live walk on walkers. We have a 90 percent voting record.” But if the ID requirement is enacted, she warned, “That will change… I know what this is really about.”

The afternoon’s harshest words came from Democracy NC director Bob Hall, who called the bill “as phony as a three-dollar bill. It’s a sham. It’s a political trick.” He says there's far more evidence of absentee voter fraud than in-person fraud in NC, but H351 doesn't address that. And, he added, the measure’s various reform provisions are "contorted in a way that has partisan advantage. The people of NC can do better than this bill.”

Several other speakers criticized the speed at which the bill moved from introduction to debate – less than 24 hours. Damon Circosta with the NC Center for Voter Education said rushing the bill wouldn’t inspire public confidence in the process. “For those of us that think there are shenanigans aplenty down here already, this just adds to the skepticism.”

"Common sense"

Supporters of the voter ID provision had some strong words for the lawmakers, too.

Don Wendelken reminded lawmakers that photo ID is required in NC to drive, drink, smoke, fly, get a job, cash a check, and buy insurance. “A lot of times in these debates, emotion just gets carried away,” he said. “Put your common-sense hats on.”

“Present election law makes voting too easy,” argued Louis Stannard, who told the committee the reason people don’t vote is because they believe the system is rigged. “One case of voter fraud, that’s one too many,” he said. “What better way to respect your vote than to protect your vote with a voter law that has teeth?”

Several supporters voiced concerns about voting by illegal immigrants, including Lynn West of Washington County. She also said dead people had voted in the county’s last elections. To those who don’t think voter fraud is a problem, West said, “Come on down to Washington County and let me show you around.”

And Civitas President Francis DeLuca told lawmakers that polling conducted by his organization shows overwhelming support for voter ID among all parties and all races. He says it’s a “common-sense” development in a rapidly growing state. “This is not a partisan issue. At least, not to the voters.”

Voice your opinion

Elections Committee Chairman David Lewis announced at today’s meeting he’s reopening the link for electronic public comments. You can submit your input on voter ID here. Lewis says they’ll review comments before they return to debate on the measure next Wednesday at 1:00pm.

19 Comments

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  • Mango Mar 17, 2011

    >> It shouldn't cost a thing to say "no ID, no vote".

  • primalinstinct1 Mar 17, 2011

    I think ID required is a great idea! It shouldn't cost a thing to say "no ID, no vote". I have to show ID to my local (home) bank everytime I need money and that makes me feel safe! I feel even better when merchants ask for ID when I use my credit cards and bank cards because I know a thief will not get away with a crime.

  • driverkid3 Mar 16, 2011

    NAACP President Rev. William Barber.

    That big man just loves to be in the news. If he would just stay out of everyones's business, I think folks would get along a lot better.

  • Mango Mar 16, 2011

    It's great to see people weighing on in this issue. Now, a question for all of you who favor this bill: how much more are you willing to pay in taxes in order to pay for implementing the bill? It's going to cost a whole lot more money than what they set aside for it. Millions more. Would you pay an additional, say, $20 a year for it? If so, call your reps now and let them know! Given the budget shortfall, the money must be raised somehow.

  • davisgw Mar 16, 2011

    This is a necessary move and is nothing more than common sense. I have lived in other states where either voter registration card is required or no vote. I don't see this as a race or age issue but rather one of modern times.

  • 27610-USA Mar 16, 2011

    Hey, state NAACP President Rev. William Barber why don't you call President Obama and see if he is with me on this new name: NAAAP (National American Association for All People). I think he will agree, because he is kind of stuck in the middle being (mixed) black and white you know. Think about it for the good of this country: Stronger organization, better America and less whining. That is what our President would want for America.

  • purplepat777 Mar 16, 2011

    You have to show your picture ID to buy alcohol. You have to show your picture ID to open a bank account. You have to show your picture ID when you get pulled over in a traffic stop. You have to show your picture ID at some doctor's offices and urgent care centers. All these instances aren't a hardship? It's only when you have show a picture ID for voting that it's a hardship? How stupid does the NAACP think we are?! Legislators: PLEASE PASS THE VOTER ID LAW. We MUST be able to have confidence in our election results!

  • wa4dou Mar 16, 2011

    It isn't racism, classism or partisanship. You can bet that if the government was giving out money, there would be no arguement with everyone showing up with a photo ID. In this case, a photo ID closes off the ease with which voter fraud can and does occur.

  • 27610-USA Mar 16, 2011

    I vote for the new NAAAP to begin:
    (National American Association for All People).
    It will be a stronger organization, better America and less whining.

  • 27610-USA Mar 16, 2011

    Maybe the NAACP (National American Association for Colored People) should do away with that organization and rename it: NAAAP (National American Association for All People).

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