With the General Assembly considering legislation requiring voters to show photo identification to vote, a House panel recently heard from experts on the issue. Among those testifying was Civitas President Francis X. De Luca. Here are his remarks with accompanying charts.
Remarks to House Committee on Elections,
State Legislative Building, Rm. 643
March 13, 2013 1:00 PM
Mr. Chairman and Members of the committee, on behalf of the Civitas Institute I would like to thank you for inviting me to testify.
I am here today for three purposes: To discuss the need for a government-issued photo ID for voting; to share polling data on photo ID; and to talk about the facts surrounding Georgia’s experience with government-issued photo ID and its relevance to the debate in North Carolina;
Why require a government-issued photo ID to vote?
Until recently North Carolina was primarily a rural state and our election system relied on small precincts with election officials who knew the precinct’s voters. We are no longer rural – and we no longer vote in our home precincts. In the 2012 general election, over 2.5 million voters out of the 4.5 million voters used One-Stop Voting sites. These sites, in many cases, are staffed by temporary help – not local precinct election officials. Voters can use any site anywhere in the county and can register and vote at the same time. The days of poll workers knowing voters ended in 2000 with the start of One-Stop Voting. With Same-Day Registration starting in 2008, One-Stop poll workers did not even have a complete list of potential voters. One-Stop voting and Same Day Registration combined with the increased urbanization and mobility of the population have rendered obsolete the ability of poll workers to serve as an effective check on voter impersonation. We need to update our ballot access and ballot protection just as we have updated our ability to register to vote and to vote.
This is just not a case of voting problems; it is also that the safeguards put in place to protect our voter rolls have been mostly stripped away. When the 1995 National Voter Registration Act, also known as Motor Voter, opened up the voter registration process, an important safeguard against fraudulent registrations – the requirement of a “verification” mailing to the voters residence address — was put into place. This safeguard was rendered null when the State Board of Elections allowed verification mailings to be sent first to PO Boxes and then to out-of-state addresses.
Another safeguard was in the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) which required new voters to submit either a drivers license number or the last four digits of a Social Security number to be a valid registration. The State Board no longer requires validation of Social Security numbers or drivers license numbers in order to vote. No effort to systematically clean up and correct voter rolls has been undertaken.
Another complication in our election system is the different classes of voters with differing requirements as to proof of identity.
If voters register by mail they must show some sort of ID the first time they vote. But if they register any other way (including voter registration drives) they do not.
The deadline to register to vote in North Carolina is 25 days before the election, unless you don’t, and then you may register during the 17 days of One-Stop Voting.
Your address must be validated by a verification mailing, unless you vote first, then it doesn’t have to be verified – it is counted! This contradiction in law is due mostly to allowing voters to register at the same time they vote during One-Stop Voting and because registration ends 25 days before an election – not before One-Stop Voting. There is not time to complete the required verification process.
Some advocates for keeping our current system and not adopting a photo ID say our current practice of requiring voters to sign an authorization to vote sheet is sufficient security. This is a hollow suggestion, as poll workers do not have access to a signature to compare it to and state election officials have already said local election officials are not handwriting experts.
In changing the law we have created inequities in how we treat voters depending on how and when they register to vote.
It is time that North Carolina begins to treat all voters equally – requiring a government-issued photo ID of all voters prior to casting a vote will mean all voters are treated the same. It will also update our current election system to help protect the integrity of the process.
Polling Data: (PPT) The committee has these slides and if anyone would like a copy just let me know.
Slide 2: Dates poll was conducted.
Slide 3: Despite claims of over a half million voters without ID, our polling consistently shows 2% or less of registered voters lack a government-issued photo ID.
Slide 4: 2/3 of registered voters in our last poll supported requiring a photo ID. Elon polls of all adults consistently show support exceeding 70% as do other public opinion polls.
Slide 5: North Carolina voters overwhelmingly support strict voting laws even if it means some voters have to cast a provisional ballot.
Slide 6: By a slim margin voters do not believe problems with ineligible voters or voter fraud would cause citizens to question an election result. But the overall result is a statistical tie.
Slide 7: A clear majority thinks having a photo ID requirement would stop voter fraud.
Slide 8: By a 3-1 margin voters who answered said requiring a photo ID would increase the likelihood of them voting.
Slide 9: A photo ID requirement will give voters more confidence in election results.
Slide 10: When asked to describe in their own words what would make elections more secure, 47% of voters volunteered that Voter ID would make elections more secure
What follows is a summary of a Georgia PowerPoint presentation
And I would like to thank Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp and his staff for their assistance in providing the information on the Georgia ID program.
Slide 2: This is background information on the Georgia Photo ID requirement adopted in 2006. Note that is says – “No voter is ever turned away from the polls…”
Slide 3: Since 2006 the total number of IDs issued by County Election Offices 29,611. Another 1,155 have been issued by the Georgia Department of Driver Services. This is in a state larger than NC and demographically very similar. In reality, despite claims, there were not hundreds of thousands getting free IDs.
Slide 4: Costs for Voter ID – the total spent since 2006 is $1.7 million, not the big numbers you hear thrown around. It should also be noted Georgia has 159 counties versus 100 in NC. If you are looking for money to pay for this, the Political Party Check-Off funds might be a good place to start.
Slide 5: Voter ID education and outreach efforts, including Atlanta Falcons football players. We have plenty of pro athletes in NC.
Slide 6: Demographic analysis of turnout from a pre-ID election to post-ID election.
Voter turnout is up by double digits for minority voters.
Also in 2012 Georgia had a 72.2% voter turnout while North Carolina’s was 68.4%
As the years have passed, North Carolina has moved away from people voting in their home precincts; it has allowed the state voter rolls to be essentially just a list of names; and we have made numerous changes affecting registration and voting. What we have not done is update ballot and voter protections. While we need to make sure ALL legal voters are given an unfettered opportunity to exercise their franchise, we must also ensure that those very same voters do not have their votes cancelled by illegitimate votes.
I would like to close by touching on an immediate benefit of a requiring a photo ID for voting. People who currently lack a photo ID will be brought more fully into daily life. We require an ID for many activities, be it buying cold medicine or cashing a check. Those opposed to requiring the commonsense requirement for a government issued photo ID to vote like to talk about voter disenfranchisement. What they never mention is by helping these folks get a valid government photo ID they will be helping them get more fully integrated into society.
Or is it that they really don’t care if they fully participate in life? Is it that they just want them to show up once every couple of years to vote and slip quietly back into the shadows?
Do the right thing for EVERYONE – pass photo ID.
Thank you for your time and attention.