GOP could push voter IDs

Published 9:09 pm Thursday, January 27, 2011

Staff Writer

It’s been reported the new Republican majority in the N.C. General Assembly could soon push legislation requiring state voters to present identification cards every time they vote.
With solid leads in the House and Senate, it seems likely this legislation would pass, though it could be vetoed by Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue, political observers said.
In interviews on Wednesday, a field organizer for a left-leaning advocacy group spoke in opposition to this proposed law, while a local Republican representative and a county commissioner said it sounds like a good idea.
As of Wednesday, the Legislature’s opening day, no voter-ID legislation had been presented for lawmakers’ consideration, but media reports show GOP leaders want to explore that possibility.
“I think it will be one of the first things we’ll do,” said Rep. Bill Cook, R-Beaufort, fresh off his first day in the House.
“I think that’s a good idea. I think voting should be done by citizens,” Cook said. “Too often I hear stories and see stories in the paper where in some county somewhere it’s been discovered that dead people are voting. … This, hopefully, will alleviate some of that.”
Requiring voters to produce IDs would disenfranchise certain people, including people of color and the elderly, said Shaunee Morgan, eastern North Carolina field organizer with Democracy North Carolina.
An ID measure also would target people who don’t typically support the Republican Party, Morgan said.
“We’re speaking out publicly against it because there are current laws on the books that protect voter integrity,” she commented.
A new law addressing voters IDs isn’t necessary because vote fraud isn’t a widespread problem in this state, she asserted.
Citing numbers from Gary Bartlett, executive director of the State Board of Elections, Morgan said that out of millions of votes cast in this state during the 2008 election, there were 18 cases of fraud where voter ID would have been an effective prevention tool.
“It’s clearly not an issue, it’s a power grab and it’s clearly a waste of time,” she said.
Al Klemm, a Republican Beaufort County commissioner, supports requiring voters to present IDs at the polls.
“I think it would require people to get in and identify themselves before they vote,” Klemm said. “I think it would be a positive thing myself.”
The GOP movement toward requiring IDs was spawned by concerns about vote fraud in large cities across the United States, he said.
Klemm disagreed with the idea that some voters would be marginalized by a new ID law, saying people should be interested enough in elections to want to obtain IDs.
“Disenfranchise is a big word among various groups,” Klemm continued. “Disenfranchise in a way says this particular person or group or whatever is not going to go through the extra step of doing this, and because they have to go through that extra step they won’t do this. … I think as a citizen of the United States and as a voter that a person should be able to get a voter ID and present it when they vote.”
Kellie Hopkins, Beaufort County’s elections director, foresees no problems implementing a voter ID law locally, though she said there would be a learning curve for voters.
“It’s nothing that I don’t think the boards of election in North Carolina can’t overcome, it would just take a while to implement the program,” Hopkins said.
State law already requires identification — a drivers license or the last four digits of a person’s Social Security number — for first-time voters, she pointed out.
“The premise behind having IDs is to make sure that people are who they say they are,” she said.
Hopkins could recall one incident in her 12-year tenure as elections director in which a voter marked a ballot under someone else’s name.
That person was found out, and the case was turned over to the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, she said.