The mid-term election results are in, and voters sent a resounding message to the NC General Assembly. By voting out the GOP supermajority and returning veto power to Governor Cooper, they have clearly stated that it’s time for more balance, compromise, transparency and debate when considering legislation that affects every North Carolinian.
When the supermajority slipped 6 amendments on the ballot with little notice and no due process, they claimed it was to give voters the chance to use their voice at the polls. Well, they did, and voted in a system of checks and balances that have been missing in North Carolina politics for the last few years. Unfortunately, the full details weren’t provided for each amendment, and misleading ballot language led to 4 of the 6 being passed.
As a result, NC voters will now be required to provide a PhotoID when they vote. We need your help to let lawmakers know we will not tolerate a repeat of the 2013 ID law, which was struck down in 2016 by a Federal court and which discriminated against students, people with low incomes, women and African-Americans especially (see chart here). We expect any legislation on this new amendment to be considered thoughtfully by the newly elected General Assembly after January 2019.
Before we talk about what SHOULD happen in 2019, let’s clarify a few things we’ve seen on social media this week.
- “Since the NCGOP no longer has a supermajority they won’t be able to push through anything extreme.” Unfortunately, this is not true. Back in August, the NCGA called a special session for Nov 27th in anticipation of writing the amendment language before the new Assembly convenes in January. Current members of the NCGA (including those who lost their races on Tuesday) want to be the ones defining PhotoID.
- “The courts will overturn this before it is implemented.” Not necessarily true. Since this is now part of the Constitution, it will be more difficult to overturn a photo ID requirement. However, it can still be challenged as being too restrictive, discriminatory or a violation of another section of NC Constitution or the US Constitution. But it took three years to overturn an ID law last time and we don’t have that luxury with a Presidential Election two years away.
- “Voter ID is necessary to prevent non-citizens from voting.” No, that’s not the case. Showing a photo ID is not about proving citizenship. It is about matching up the person and the voter record. That’s it.
- “What’s the big deal in getting an ID? I have to show ID for taking my kids out of school, after all.” Not everyone has access to the documents required for getting certain types of IDs. Getting an ID is EXPENSIVE and time-consuming, especially if you don’t have ready access to a birth certificate. Current locations for obtaining an ID, i.e. the DMV, are limited in rural counties, understaffed and extensively overbooked. Not all employers are sympathetic to letting their employees leave to go stand in line for hours on end either.
What Happens Next?
As mentioned above, the outgoing General Assembly plans to convene on Nov 27th. We need plenty of people to take time to show up at the NCGA that day, and throughout the following week, and let them know we are paying attention and will shine a bright light on any shenanigans they may try. This should not be a #CarolinaCoup2.
Contact your current representatives and demand full transparency on their plans before any vote. You can find your legislator’s contact info at https://www.ncleg.net/.
Looking ahead to 2019, here are some things we will be advocating for as the implementation of PhotoID is considered.
- Create an independent, non-partisan commission to evaluate the options for implementing a PhotoID roll-out across the state. Let’s take the responsibility of creating voting laws out of the hands of elected politicians.
- Allow all types of photo ID to be included. This means student IDs, military IDs, government housing IDs, government employee IDs, recently expired and out of state driver’s licenses, etc. The 2013 Voter ID bill that was struck down as unconstitutional did not allow for some of these types of identification to be valid at the polls. Let’s make sure we change that this time around. The stated intent of PhotoID is simply to match the person against the voter roll, so any form of identification should work if they are really trying to be non-discriminatory.
- Ensure free identification will be made available. At minimum, there should be a voting ID that is made available at no cost. Anything they come up with has to be free, with equitable access to all, and if they can’t implement that then the law shouldn’t be enforced until they can. A roll out phase to make sure it’s logistically secure and Board of Elections approved would be a very common sense solution.
- Open up greater number of places to obtain a photo ID. This can be done by funding more DMV office locations and fund more staff and hours for each office. Alternatively, they could also authorize every County Board of Elections to issue “Photo IDs” and have the equipment and staff for it. Post offices could be another easily accessible place to get an ID with locations all across the state.
- Eliminate unnecessary barriers to getting an ID. The NCGA should pass a law that says employers can’t fire employees for taking time off work to get an ID. There should be free transportation provided for those who need it in order to get IDs. Time and transportation are both costs that should be considered, and in order to avoid a 21st century “Poll Tax” we need to ensure free and equitable access for all. Voter registration is the time to confirm a person’s eligibility to vote. We should not have to confirm eligibility simply to obtain a PhotoID.
- Identify exceptions to voter identification requirements. The language added to the NC Constitution specifically allows the legislature to provide “exceptions” for people without IDs. It would be consistent with the new amendment for the General Assembly to allow voters without a photo ID with them at time of voting to provide an alternative form of identification, including signing a sworn statement (i.e., government document) verifying their identity. Provisional ballots must be automatically offered and counted. Most states with strict voter identification requirements have exceptions, including, but not limited to:
- People who are indigent (Indiana, Tennessee)
- Those with a “reasonable impediment” to getting an ID (South Carolina)
- Those who do not have an ID as a result of a recent natural disaster (Texas)
- People who are victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking and have a “confidential listing” (Wisconsin)
- Those with religious objections to being photographed (Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin)
We encourage everyone who voted either “For” or “Against” PhotoID to work together and ensure this amendment does not harm any North Carolina voters by disenfranchising them of their *right* to vote.
Please contact your legislators before Nov 27, write your local papers, and join us at the General Assembly during the session to show them that we care, and we are holding them accountable on behalf of our fellow North Carolinians.