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Opponents speak out against voter ID bill

Posted February 16, 2011 11:57 a.m. EST
Updated February 16, 2011 8:04 p.m. EST

— A group of Democratic lawmakers and local college students spoke out Wednesday against a bill in the General Assembly that would require photo identification at the polls.

was introduced in 2009 but is among the priorities in this legislative session of Republican lawmakers who argue that the requirement would help reduce the chance of fraud.

It’s expected to be reintroduced next week.

Opponents, however, call it an unfunded mandate for a solution to a problem that is “statistically insignificant” and a requirement that would lead to disenfranchisement of the state’s college students, senior citizens and low-income residents.

Admitting that voter fraud exists, Rep. Larry Hall, D-Durham, said the occurrences were miniscule. Out of the 4.3 million votes cast in the 2008 general election, approximately 40 were identified as fraudulent.

“Instead of trying to fix something that is not broken, instead of trying to do something that is not a priority right now, we should be working on putting our citizens back to work and making situations and conditions for them to get the jobs of tomorrow,” Hall said.

Rep. William Brisson, D-Bladen, called the proposed legislation a “slap in the face” to voters in rural areas and said it is a step backward in trying to get more people involved in government.

“It involves about 35 percent of my voters,” he said. “These are people who still feel like they are part of this world and want to vote, even though they are in long-term care homes and might not have photo IDs. These are people this is just a direct impact on.”

Courtney Scott, a student at Shaw University and a resident of Georgia, said the law could lead to apathy among out-of-state students who have to go through hurdles to prove their identity to get a state-issued photo ID.

“North Carolina shouldn’t hassle its citizens when they are trying to exercise their God-given right to vote,” she said.

State Board of Elections analysis recently obtained by WRAL News shows as many as 700,000 to 1 million registered voters might not have a state-issued photo ID.

Francis DeLuca, executive director of the conservative public advocacy group John W. Pope Civitas Institute, calls those numbers ridiculous

“Our polling shows that when we asked about people, current voters who have what they have, only 1percent said they did not have one form of government issued photo,” he said.

“It doesn't matter if it's 600,000, 400,000 or a million or one. One is too many,” North Carolina Democratic Party Chairman David Parker said. “We believe in individual rights and individual dignity, and this is what this is about.”

Twenty-seven other states currently require some form of identification to vote, and Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake, has said the ID requirement would only ensure that voters are who they say they are.

"It's a no-brainer. People don't mind providing a photo ID,” he said. “It's not a problem. They expect to do it. We ought to do it," he said in an interview last month with WRAL News.

Local election board officials say that the most common complaint they hear from voters is why people aren't required to show an ID to vote.

State election officials have said they don't plan to oppose the bill, as long as it mirrors the current law that calls for some form of identification to register to vote.

"In terms of causing any major problems, I don't think it would," said Larry Leake, chairman of the State Board of Elections.

Leake says requiring a photo ID, however, would create more complications. Court rulings dictate they must be provided free to voters, he noted, which would require extra money and staff.