Editorial: Judge offers N.C. a chance to get voter ID law right

Posted December 30, 2019 5:00 a.m. EST
Updated December 30, 2019 9:04 a.m. EST

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CBC Editorial: Monday, Dec. 30, 2019; Editorial #8495
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company.

Instead of predictable partisan outrage, North Carolina’s legislative leaders should welcome federal judge Loretta Bigg’s decision last week to temporarily delay implementation of a new law requiring voters produce photo identification at the polling place before they cast their ballots next year.

Rather than personally attacking the judge with the worn-out clichés about being “unelected” (all federal judges are unelected) or “activist” (whatever that is), the General Assembly's leadership should embrace the judge’s go-slow and get-it-right approach.

Requiring photo identification when someone votes is about making sure our elections are fair. Just as important as making sure only qualified voters cast ballots (that hasn’t been a problem in the state while abuse of absentee ballots forced an unprecedented do-over congressional election this year) is making sure NO ONE is inappropriately denied an opportunity to vote.

When it comes to voting rights North Carolina’s legacy – including several recent issues – demands rigorous caution.

It is no simple task to register to vote in North Carolina. Nor should it be. Those who want to vote should, according to the law, be appropriately and legally qualified. They must provide proof of their name; proof of where they live; proof of their date of birth; and proof of their citizenship.

No one takes anybody’s word for it. A North Carolina driver’s license or other kind of government-issued photo identification (such as a passport); a utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, for those attending institutions of higher education – a college photo identification card (which MUST be confirmed by the institution); birth certificate and Social Security card are all required.

While North Carolina voters did approve last year an amendment to the State Constitution, the legislation implementing it was highly controversial and partisan. Only a single Senate and House Democrat voted to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the bill that was passed in the final days of the Republican’s veto-proof majority.

No one should have a problem with appropriately requiring, through use of photo identification, a person who shows up to vote is the same person that met the strict test to register. Requiring that person to do any more, such as making the types of photo identification so limited as to render it difficult to impossible for significant blocks of voters, isn’t about assuring a fair vote but imposing discrimination.

All those who favor fair elections and support a reasonable requirement for photo identification at the polling place, should welcome Judge Bigg’s injunction.

They should commit to work with the court to make sure North Carolina acts to assure fair elections and not concoct a scheme to deny blocks of voters of their most basic right in a representative government.

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