Election reform has become a hot topic this week at the General Assembly, with several bills changing how North Carolina citizens cast their ballots. Here is a rundown on what is being debated, and what it means for your vote and the integrity of the ballot box.
1. Photo ID requirements. HB 351, Restore Confidence in Government, went through several major changes yesterday. Originally passed in the Elections Committee as a photo ID requirement, when it reached Appropriations it was barely recognizable. In an apparent attempt to reach a compromise with Democrats, this version would have allowed various forms of non-photo ID or a signature, which would be compared to the signature on the voter’s registration information. Even this compromise did not satisfy House Democrats, who harshly criticized the signature provision.
The original, photo-ID only, bill was reintroduced and passed in committee on a tense party line vote. If ratified, official photo identification will be required at the polling place. Voters can request a free voter identification card if they do not have current photo identification. This measure is overwhelmingly popular with voters, despite attacks from Democrats and their allies. The bill is scheduled for debate in the House today.
2. Straight Ticket Voting . SB 411, the Vote for the Person, Not the Party Act, ends the practice of straight ticket voting. Voters will now return to voting for each individual candidate on the ballot. Straight-ticket has been in decline for years, with 6 states eliminating the practice since 1994. Of the 16 states which still have the practice (including Wisconsin which will eliminate it on January 1), North Carolina is unique in that straight ticket voting does not include the presidential contest or the “non-partisan” judicial elections. The bill has passed in its second reading, but will require one final vote in the Senate.
3. “Non-Partisan” Judicial Elections. SB 47, Restore Partisan Judicial Elections, would do just that. Voters with no information on these obscure races will no longer have to remember to bring voter guides or pick a random name. North Carolina elects judges, and citizens deserve the information about the candidate’s judicial philosophy and political leanings to make an informed decision. The bill passed the Senate today and will now head to the House.