Amendment: “Voter ID”
Ballot language: Constitutional amendment to require voters to provide photo identification before voting in person.
- The bill contains no implementation language so as to create as little controversy as possible until the amendment is voted on. The General Assembly is already scheduled to reconvene to pass a bill that includes all the details. You have to pass the amendment to find out what’s in it.
- This is a do-over of previous voter ID initiative that were ruled unconstitutional. The 2013 voter ID law, which included specific forms of acceptable ID, was struck down because the legislature excluded many of the alternative photo IDs used by African Americans. The courts held that the law had targeted African-American voters with “almost surgical precision.”
- Voter fraud in not a problem. The audit of the 2016 election in North Carolina by the State Board of Elections found that out of 4,769,640 votes cast, it appears that one fraudulent vote would have been prevented with a voter ID.
- An estimated 218,000 registered voters in North Carolina lack photo ID, enough to swing a Presidential election.
Voters will be asked to vote on six amendments to the North Carolina Constitution in November. They are all unnecessary, unprecedented, and politically motivated. We need to nix all six. It’s unclear who will write the final ballot language, but the current language is “Constitutional amendment to require voters to provide photo identification before voting in person.”
This amendment originated as House Bill 1092, and it’s short: “Voters offering to vote in person shall present photographic identification before voting. The General Assembly shall enact general laws governing the requirements of such photographic identification, which may include exceptions.” People who support requiring a photo ID to vote argue that it prevents fraud. In fact, the amendment presents a solution to a problem that rarely exists, and it creates new restrictions on your right to vote. The amendment also leaves many questions unanswered about what kind of ID will be necessary, whether only “in person” voting requires such IDs, and what impact such a requirement will have on older people, young people, and people of color. This amendment is not about preventing voter fraud; it’s about giving the General Assembly a blank check to determine who gets to vote and who doesn’t.
The voter ID amendment is essentially a do-over of previous voter ID initiatives that have been shown to be unconstitutional. By leaving the details out of House Bill 1092—they will be worked out later—the hope is that the amendment will create less controversy than the 2013 voter ID law, which a federal court found targeted African American voters with “almost surgical precision.” The 2013 law required specific forms of photo ID—a North Carolina driver’s license, a state-issued ID card, a military ID, or a U.S. passport—but these types of ID created difficulties for older people who no longer drive, those who rely on mass transportation, young people with only a student ID, and other groups.
The intention of Republicans is to create a voter ID that will withstand judicial scrutiny this time, which is likely if the amendment is passed. But as developments in technology make more common other forms of identification--facial recognition, biometrics--photo IDs will quickly become outdated. Gerry Cohen, former special counsel to the NC General Assembly, recently quipped that requiring photo IDs will be like “mandating buggy whips in all motor vehicles.”
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, only seven states have strict voter ID requirements, and even fewer write such requirements into their state constitution. Once it’s written into the NC Constitution, it will be difficult to undo.
How common is voter fraud? It’s almost nonexistent. The most recent study of the 2016 election by the North Carolina State Board of Elections found that only two people, out of 4,769,640 voters, pretended to be someone they were not. One woman signed an absentee ballot for her deceased husband, and another cast a ballot for Trump because her deceased mother asked her to. Only one vote would probably have been avoided with a voter ID. The report also found no evidence of ballot stuffing or equipment tampering.
U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield said in a statement, “This latest proposal by Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly isn’t about protecting our elections. It is about suppressing the vote. Their continued and thinly veiled efforts to make it harder and less likely that some North Carolinians will vote are shameful.”
We should be encouraging more people to vote, not making it harder. Vote against the “Voter ID” amendment!