The road has been rocky, but the Republican majority has voted Voter Photo ID legislation (House Bill 351, “Restore Confidence in Government”) out of House Committee on Elections. The bill is now headed to House Committee on Appropriations before moving to the full House for a vote in the coming weeks.
Republicans on the Elections Committee veered off course when they attempted to re-write House Bill 351 to appease House Democrats and avoid a possible gubernatorial veto. Their first bill substitute eliminated the requirement for a photo ID to access a ballot and would have allowed a voter to use their voter registration card, utility bill or bank statement among other documents to cast a ballot. Almost immediately after the compromise bill was announced, liberal special interest groups made it clear that they would oppose any bill that would require an ID to cast a ballot – photo or no photo.
Republicans quickly went back to the drawing board and produced another substitute that was virtually the same as HB 351, with a few adjustments.
House bill 351, is not a perfect Voter Photo ID bill – but it is a beginning. It is the beginning of much needed election reform in a state that only requires a voter to state their name and address in order to receive a ballot. North Carolina, opting for the honor system instead of ballot security in the polling place, has some of the most relaxed election laws in the nation. We do not require identity verification when one registers to vote; we vote in remote locations far from our homes and the people who know us; we begin voting two and one half weeks before Election Day; and we allow people to register and vote on the same day (Same-Day Registration).
The State Senate will have an opportunity to fine-tune the voter ID bill and perhaps make the ID requirements less ambiguous and at the same time remove the language that awards so much power and freedom to the State Board of Elections to interpret and develop the law to suit the majority on the State Board of Elections.
As expected, the vote to give a favorable report to House Bill 351 went along party lines – 18 Republicans voted for the bill while 14 Democrats voted against it. Though this vote and probably all subsequent votes on voter ID legislation will probably follow the party line, it is anything but a partisan issue to the voters of North Carolina.
In poll after poll, national and state, the voters overwhelmingly support voter photo ID legislation in order to protect the integrity of our elections. A Civitas Poll conducted in December 2010 showed that an amazing 84 percent of North Carolina voters favored legislation that would require voter photo ID. Broken down, 96 percent of Republicans, 86 percent of Unaffiliated voters and 73 percent of Democrats support a voter photo ID to vote.
The Republicans in the State House and State Senate promised to pass voter photo ID legislation in the first 100 days of the 2011 session – they have moved one step closer to their goal.
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