North Carolina is the first state to lose a voter photo ID case and the Republicans in the state legislature were the deciding factor.
Late last week, out of nowhere, Republicans in the state Senate and House passed a bill that effectively gutted North Carolina’s never-implemented voter photo ID legislation. The Voter Information Verification Act (VIVA), the landmark election reform legislation passed in 2013, included a voter photo ID provision that was to be implemented in 2016.
House Bill 836 is now on its way to Gov. Pat McCrory for his signature.
According to this WRAL article, HB 836 went to a conference committee to work out differences in the bill, which had not previously included any provisions regarding voter ID. Somehow our elected representatives kept the newly revised bill’s real impact out of sight from the public, for in fact it guts the ID requirement.
(To see the members of the conference committee responsible for these changes, click here)
HB 836 now allows voters who say they do not have one of the valid forms of voter photo ID “due to a reasonable impediment” to sign an affidavit and present another type of identification, such as a utility bill, or they could submit the last four digits of a Social Security number and a date of birth.
Here are few of the “reasonable impediments” allowed:
- Lack of transportation
- Disability or illness
- Lack of birth certificate
- Work schedule
- Family responsibilities
- Lost or stolen ID
Note how vague and loose these requirements are. For example, is a bad cold an “illness”? Ditto for the other provisions. The bottom line: This bill wipes out any benefit of VIVA’s voter photo ID provision.
So why now? Why after four years since the first voter photo ID bill was passed (and vetoed by then-Gov. Bev Perdue) did the Republicans in the legislature choose to back down? Rep. Mickey Michaux (D-Durham) was right when he said, “This could have been done two years ago.”
Quotes from Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) and Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) lead us to believe they had been waiting for this time to make the changes in the voter ID requirement, appearing to be fearful over the upcoming court case scheduled for next month in the United States District Court – Middle District of North Carolina – United States District Court.
WRAL quoted Senate President Pro Tem Berger as saying, “One of the reasons that we put a two-year delay in the photo ID provision is so that we could get some feedback. What that provision represents is some of the feedback to try to make sure that everyone who is eligible to vote has an opportunity to not only cast their vote but have their vote counted.”
Lewis, Chair of the House Elections Committee said, “The idea of an affidavit came up during the public comment sessions on the State Board of Elections’ rules to enforce the photo ID requirement.”
An overwhelming majority of voters in North Carolina want election laws that protect everyone’s vote, including a requirement to show a photo ID to cast a ballot. In poll after poll, in North Carolina and nationally the numbers are astounding. Yet our Republican leaders caved.
In essence this new North Carolina “voter ID requirement” is a joke. It goes like this: You must show ID unless you say that you don’t have one, then you don’t have to show an ID.
The vote in the Senate in favor of the bill was 44-2 and in the House 104-3.
Because it guts the sensible voter photo ID measure, and was done in a last-minute, secretive fashion, HB 836 is this week’s Bad Bill of the Week.