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House OKs voter ID amendment

Posted June 25, 2018 5:50 a.m. EDT
Updated June 26, 2018 3:37 p.m. EDT

Tuesday update: The voter ID amendment won final approval in the House Tuesday morning, 74-43. It heads now to the state Senate. There was limited debate Tuesday after a lengthy back-and-forth between Democrats and Republicans on the bill Monday night.

House lawmakers voted on party lines 74-44 Monday night to put an amendment on the ballot in November to require a photo ID for in-person voting in North Carolina.

The debate was acrimonious, with Republicans insisting that the measure is needed to prevent voter fraud and ensure election integrity, and Democrats countering that there is no evidence that fraud by voter impersonation is a problem of any significance in North Carolina or any other state.

Rep. Ed Hanes, D-Forsyth, called the measure "boogeyman legislation" responding to a "phantom issue" that Republican lawmakers have been pushing for nine years despite lack of evidence. But one Republican after another insisted they had personally seen cases where people had voted multiple times or where others had voted in another citizen's name.

"How can you know something is going on if you have no method to detect it?" asked sponsor Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett. "It’s reckless to claim a problem doesn’t exist when we haven’t been looking for it."

"An overwhelming majority of North Carolinians, regardless of party affiliation, race or gender, believe voter ID is common sense to ensure election integrity," Lewis said. "We will pass a bill that implements the will of the people while protecting the rights of the people."

Democrats argued that the measure would impede ballot access for voters who are unable to obtain a photo ID. Voters who were turned away from the polls for that reason under the state's prior voter ID requirement were disproportionately African-American.

"To those of us who’ve had to fight and those of us who’ve historically been marginalized as citizens," said Rep. Rodney Moore, D-Mecklenburg, "that’s an impediment in our minds, and that’s why we fight so vociferously against it."

Rep. Michael Speciale, R-Craven, called Democrats' arguments "hyperbolic political garbage."

"Nobody in this room is trying to take away somebody's right to vote," Speciale insisted.

"People in this body lived through this," responded Rep. Robert Reives, D-Chatham, "and you can’t understand why it could be bothersome, it could be offensive?"

Rep. Darren Jackson, D-Wake, accused Republicans of trying again to implement the "monster law" of election changes, including voter ID, which was passed in 2013. It was overturned by federal courts that ruled it targeted minority voters with "almost surgical precision."

Jackson predicted federal courts would strike this amendment down, too, on the same grounds.

"You went too far. You poisoned the well," he said. "You’re stuck with it. That’s your intent."

"The bill before you is not that law," Lewis said. "A vote diluted is equal in my mind to a vote denied."

The final House vote will be taken Tuesday. After that, the proposal moves to the Senate. It would need approval by a three-fifths majority in that chamber to go before voters this fall.