Charlotte Observer: Voter ID is back in North Carolina, and the justifications are as lame as ever
By the Editorial Board
June 7, 2018
North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore announced on Thursday his plan to put a photo voter identification requirement in the state constitution. The idea is as craven, political, misleading and ineffective as it was when a federal court ruled in 2016 that an N.C. photo ID provision and other voting restrictions targeted black voters “with almost surgical precision.”
Moore and his backers made that clear themselves Thursday, offering the same lame justifications that have been exposed as flimsy before.
First lame justification? Preventing fraud.
Moore called photo ID a “common sense measure to secure the integrity of our elections system.” He said it’s needed because “protecting our democracy should be one of lawmakers’ highest priorities.”
Rep. John Sauls, a Lee County Republican who is a primary sponsor of the constitutional amendment, said, “Our state must not tolerate anyone’s vote being threatened because lawmakers failed to prevent fraud.”
What a sham. For years, Republicans in North Carolina alleged that in-person fraudulent voting is rampant. Then, in April 2017, the state Board of Elections released the results of an extensive, objective audit of the 2016 election. It found that out of almost 4.8 million votes cast, one fraudulent vote probably would have been avoided with a photo voter ID law. One!
If Sauls is worried about lawmakers failing to prevent fraud, he should pay more attention to Russian hacking or mail-in absentee-ballot fraud, both of which pose bigger threats than someone showing up at the polls illegitimately.
Another misguided justification? “Moore emphasized that North Carolinians show IDs for far more trivial matters than participating in elections,” his press release said.
Voting, unlike driving or buying strong narcotic cough medicine, is a constitutional right. The others are privileges. Americans should not have to jump through artificial – and for a small number of people, substantial – hoops to exercise their constitutional rights.
Rep. David Lewis, a Harnett County Republican and another amendment sponsor, said the proposal was designed “to ensure everyone who is eligible to vote is able to cast a secure ballot. We want extraordinary voter turnout …”
If Lewis and other legislative leaders want extraordinary voter turnout, they shouldn’t have passed legislation that cut a week of early voting, blocked 16- and 17-year-olds from preregistering to vote, ended same-day registration and provisional out-of-precinct voting. And they shouldn’t now enshrine in the state constitution a provision that will make it extremely difficult for some North Carolinians to vote.
And why put it in the constitution, anyway? Republicans have the votes to just pass a law. Voters should be especially wary of the proposed amendment because they would be asked to approve it before they know any details of how photo ID would work. Would student IDs count? Would utility bills? We don’t know, because legislators would take care of the specifics only after voters give a blanket OK.
Don’t buy the ruse that this is about avoiding in-person voter fraud. With such fraud virtually nonexistent, this is a waste of time and money. This, like so many things Republican legislative leaders have done in recent years, is purely about politics – thinly disguised maneuvering to dampen turnout for their opponents no matter the cost to democracy.
Legislators should defeat this gimmick. If they don’t, voters should in November.