Voter photo ID (House Bill 351) has been dead in the water since Gov. Perdue cut it down with her veto pen last June. Speculation looms that if Republican Candidate Pat McCrory wins the governorship this November, HB 351 would have a sure shot at being passed without fear of veto. The legislation would require voters to present photo identification when casting a ballot.
Such a simple, common-sense safeguard against voter fraud enjoys broad public support. According to recent Civitas poll results, 74 percent of North Carolinians believe voters should be required to show photo identification. Nevertheless, voter photo ID legislation created a lot of controversy, with claims from the Governor that HB351 “disenfranchises” voters and is “extreme.”
Now is a good time to take another look back at voter photo ID by picking apart some of the myths and frequently asked questions about the issue, and looking at data from other states that have similar laws.
Myth #1: Voter ID laws restrict low-income citizens from voting
Liberals are quick to cite a study from the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law when making the claim that voter photo ID restricts the poor from voting. The survey purports to prove that more than one in ten adult U.S. citizens do not poses a valid government-issued photo ID – and that low income people are more likely to lack such identification. The Brennan Center study, however is severely flawed in many ways. Most strikingly, Brennan Center researchers did not ask survey respondents if they were likely, registered, or even eligible voters. The researchers didn’t even screen for legal U.S. citizens. If they surveyed illegal aliens we would never know. Hans A. von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation writes in the National Review on some of the Brennan Center study’s shortcomings:
All pollsters know that the only really accurate polls are of likely voters, not of the voting-age population. Surveys of registered voters have shown the exact opposite of the Brennan Center study: American University found that less than one-half of 1 percent of registered voters in Maryland, Indiana, and Mississippi lacked a government-issued ID. A 2006 survey of more than 36,000 voters found that only 23 people in the entire sample would be unable to vote because of an ID requirement.
Spakovsky goes on to dismantle the idea that voter photo ID laws suppress minorities, “Georgia’s registration records show that while only 42.9 percent of registered black Georgians voted in 2006, when there was no photo-ID requirement, 50.4 percent voted in the 2010 congressional elections — an increase of more than 7 percentage points.”
Perhaps the most concrete evidence that voter photo ID laws are not burdens on citizens comes from the 2008 Supreme Court case Crawford v. Marion County Election Board. In summary, Indiana passed a law that required voters in Indiana to show a form of photo ID issued by the state or the federal government. Liberal activist groups sued, claiming that the law placed an “undue burden on the right to vote.”
Although the district court and the court of appeals court upheld the law, the case made its way to the United States Supreme Court. Plaintiffs in the case could not produce a single citizen who would not be able to meet the law’s requirements, much less the millions that the Brennan Center claims. The Court ruled 6-3 in favor of Indiana’s voter photo ID law. The concurring opinions concluded that, “The photo ID requirement was closely related to Indiana’s legitimate state interest in preventing voter fraud” and that “the slight burden the law imposed on voter’s rights did not outweigh these interests (preventing voter fraud) which the Court characterized as ‘neutral and nondiscriminatory.’”
According to Spakovsky, in a subsequent Indiana election, “turnout in the Democratic presidential preference primary in 2008 quadrupled from the 2004 election when the photo ID law was not in effect — in fact, there were 862,000 more votes cast in the Democratic primary than in the Republican primary.”
Myth #2: Voter ID is a poll tax
False. This claim does not hold true given that HB 351 amends Article 14A of Chapter 163 to read, “No fee shall be charged or collected for the application for or issuance of a North Carolina voter identification card.” Although an identification card at a local DMV is only $10, the General Assembly understood that there are North Carolinians who could not afford the expense. Therefore, an identification card will be provided for them by the state. This provision is important because it proves that HB 351 seeks to bar no one from voting. By providing voter photo ID cards, and the option for an identification card at the DMV for a low price of $10, voters have various and easily accessible avenues to secure an acceptable form of identification before the election.
Myth #3: Cases of voter fraud are few and far between
This myth is a catch-22 situation: Without photo ID requirement, it’s almost impossible to detect and punish voter fraud; liberal activist then claim “there’s nothing to see here.” The problem with catching voter fraud is there is no enforcement mechanism. If officials do not have a way to stop and punish offenders at the ballot box, voter fraud convictions will always be low. Hence the reason why liberal activist groups can make claims like, “Investigations by the State Board of Elections found only 5 votes per million cast in North Carolina from 2004 to 2010 involved fraud that a Voter ID would have stopped.” Without voter photo ID laws, one could plausibly vote at one polling location under one name, go to the next, and as long as one has the correct name and address match, vote again without being caught.
Even if a poll worker identifies the false name, the fraudulent voter can just step away from the table and go home, or claim he or she mispronounced the name. A quick look at this James O’Keefe video will make this point clear.
With the blatant opportunities for voter fraud, and polling officials not policing illegal activity that does come before them, officially detected cases of voter fraud will always be few and far between. Susan Myrick of the Civitas Institute expands on this issue here.
Myth #4: You cannot be forced to show photo ID to exercise your “rights”
To understand why this is a myth, let us look at how photo ID affects another “right.”
In the landmark education case of Leandro v. State of North Carolina, a unanimous state Supreme Court ruled that all children in the state of North Carolina had constitutional rights to an “equal opportunity to receive a sound basic education.” Voting, similar to a child’s “right” to an education as declared by the Leandro case, is protected by the U.S. Constitution in various amendments, such as the 19th, 24th, and 26th. According to liberal arguments against voter photo ID laws on the basis that they are an unfair obstacle to citizens exercising their rights, education enrollment should be photo ID free as well, correct?
This is not the case, however, in many North Carolina counties, as a photo ID of the child’s parent, along with other state issued documents about the children (immunization records, birth certificate) are required for enrollment. These policies are put into effect to help safeguard against fraudulent registration and protect both children and schools. In a random sampling of counties, Civitas Institute researchers found that counties such as Catawba, Wake, Alamance, Cumberland, Durham, and Johnston required the photo ID of a parent to exercise their “right” to access public education.
Moreover, if the Brennan Center is correct in claiming that nearly one in every six low-income citizens has no photo ID, this could create a serious issue for school systems registering students. However, an administrator in Johnston County who was a high school principal for 10 years said he “never had an instance in 10 years where a parent did not have an ID.” When asking a Wake County Schools administrator if they ran into the problem of parents not having photo ID’s, the answer was a simple “no, we don’t.”
Similar to county policies regarding enrolling a child in school, programs such as Medicaid, TANF, and WIC in counties like Wake also require a photo ID to enroll. Furthermore, a sampling of nursing homes that Civitas Institute researchers contacted also required photo ID of incoming residents, none of whom reported having a problem getting a picture form of ID from their elderly residents.
Asking for a photo ID for those low-income and elderly populations does not seem to be a problem. Where are the purported millions of people without photo identification?
Myth #5: Under a photo ID law, if a voter does not have correct ID at the voting booth on voting day, he or she cannot cast a ballot
False. Section 1.1 (b) of HB351 states “any voter without photo identification shall be permitted to vote a provisional official ballot.” If a voter must cast a provisional ballot, the citizen can go to the county’s board of elections and do both of the following in order for the ballot to be counted:
- Provide a valid photo ID
- Execute an affidavit that states the voter is the same individual who both:
- Personally appeared to vote on the day of election or at an early voting site
- Cast the provisional ballot on that day
Frequently Asked Questions About North Carolina’s Voter ID Legislation (HB351)
F.A.Q. #1: What forms of ID would be acceptable at the polling booth if Voter Photo ID passed?
HB351 allows for eight different types of identification to be used at the polling booth, and a few of these eight types are very broad.
- A North Carolina drivers license, including a learner’s permit or a provisional license
- An identification card for non-operators
- An identification card issued by a branch, department, agency, or entity of this State, any other state, or the United States
- A United States passport
- An employee identification card issued by any branch, department, agency, or entity of the United States government, North Carolina, or any county, municipality, board, authority, or other entity of North Carolina
- A United States military identification card
- A tribal identification card
- A North Carolina voter ID card
As one can deduce, the legislation allows for many types of identification to be accepted at the polling station.
F.A.Q. #2: If a citizen does not have a valid form of voter photo ID, can he or she ever get a voter photo identification card or another acceptable form of ID?
Yes. According to statute 163-166.14 of the North Carolina General Statutes, which would be amended if HB351 does pass, a county board of elections needs the following information before issuing a voter photo identification card:
- A photo identity document, except that a non-photo identity document is acceptable if it includes the registered voter’s name (emphasis added)
- Evidence that the individual is registered to vote in North Carolina
- Documentation showing the registered voter’s name and residence address
Straight from the North Carolina State Board of Elections website, a citizen must provide only these things in order to register to vote:
- Be a U.S. citizen
- Be a resident of North Carolina
- Prior to voting, must be a resident of the county for at least 30 days before voting.
- Rescind any previous registration in another county or state
- If previously convicted of a felony, the person’s citizenship rights must be restored (must not be serving an active sentence, including probation or parole)
It is also very easy for citizens to get their hands on an identification card at a local DMV office. The requirements for obtaining an identification card include showing two of the following forms of identification:
- Drivers license from another state, or from North Carolina that has been expired less than one year
- Birth certificate
- Social Security card
- School documents
- Military ID
- Certified marriage certificate
- Valid, unexpired documents issued by the United States Government
- Court documents
- United States Veterans Universal Access
After these listings, it should be clear that the pathway for citizens to secure an acceptable form of identification is simple and painless.
Requiring voters to present a photo identification when they cast a ballot is a common-sense, and widely supported, measure to protect the integrity of our elections in North Carolina. Opponents of such a measure base their claims on myths and misinformation, and there is ample evidence proving them wrong. Should HB 351 get another look this legislative session, let’s hope lawmakers can engage in a fact-based conversation about the bill, rather than baseless fear mongering amount nonexistent voter disenfranchisement.