A host of public-interest organizations have renewed their opposition to a photo ID requirement for NC voters. At a press conference yesterday, they rolled out a new website (www.protectourvotenc.com), new data about who does not have a photo ID, and a history lesson about an almost forgotten compromise struck a decade ago between Democrats and Republicans in the NC General Assembly. That compromise, adopted as part of a comprehensive bill to bring the state into compliance with the federal Help America Vote Act, has protected voting access and security in North Carolina very well. Rather than require voters to produce documents, as some legislators wanted at the time, or leave in place the old system of voters simply stating their name and address to the poll worker, the compromise struck in 2003 requires voters to sign in and attest they are who they are, with a felony penalty for anyone who lies.
Signature attestation balances security and access. It works and it should continue as the standard that protects the right of all registered voters to cast a ballot without being told to come back with a certain document.
The data released at the press conference shows the disproportionate impact a photo ID requirement would have on African Americans, seniors, women and youth. For example, black voters are 22% of the state’s active registered voters, but 31% of the voters who don’t show up on DMV lists as having a driver’s license or state-issue identity card. The history lesson, presented by the Rev. William J. Barber II, president of the NC NAACP, included a rundown of voter protection doctrines embedded in federal and state law – it’s worth a read.