Commissioners joust over voter ID resolution

Published 7:15 pm Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Beaufort County leaders earlier this week, in a split vote along party lines, endorsed a requirement for voters to have a photo identification in North Carolina.

The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners voted 4-3 in favor of a resolution — presented by Commissioner Al Klemm — urging state legislators to pass a voter ID law when they convene later this month.

Republican board members Gary Brinn, Stan Deatherage and Hood Richardson joined Klemm in voting for the resolution. Democrats Robert Belcher, Ed Booth and board Chairman Jerry Langley opposed it.

Klemm’s resolution cited the advent of one-stop voting and same-day registration as one of the factors contributing to the need for voters to present a photo ID at the polls.

“(O)ne-stop voting and same day registration has rendered the verification process useless; as all elections will have been certified by the time the validation process is completed,” Klemm’s resolution reads in part.

But the vote backing the resolution came only after GOP members of board jousted with one another over which version of a resolution of support to approve.

First, the board rejected a resolution presented by Deatherage in a 4-3 vote, with Klemm joining the Democratic board members in opposing it.

During discussion of the Deatherage version, Klemm said that he could support a voter ID resolution but not the one drafted by Deatherage because it was not well-written.

“I would consider an alternative to this resolution,” said Klemm, who added that he had drafted his own version after reading the one submitted by Deatherage.

Commissioner Hood Richardson called Klemm’s action “a sham” and said it was nothing but “an excuse” to break party ranks and oppose a voter ID resolution.

In response, Klemm shot back that Deatherage’s resolution was “not fit to send to the Legislature.”

Richardson responded that he refused to read Klemm’s version.

But after Deatherage’s version was defeated, he not only read it, but also read it aloud for the other members of the board after Klemm said his throat was dry.

Before the vote on Klemm’s version, Deatherage said Klemm’s resolution was “written like a 10th-grader” and, after the vote, added, “I voted for something written with crayons.”

Richardson said he was “embarrassed by the language.”

The Republican-controlled N.C. General Assembly in 2011 approved such a voter ID law, but it was vetoed by Gov. Bev Perdue, a Democrat.

Some state leaders believe that a similar measure will be approved again by the General Assembly this year and that Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, is expected to sign it into law.

As their GOP counterparts squabbled, the Democratic commissioners expressed concerns about the possible disenfranchisement of voters who are unable to qualify for a photo ID.

“You have to look at the gains and losses,” said Belcher. “You’re going to disenfranchise a lot of voters because you’re going to have people who can never get a photo ID,” in part because they lack transportation to the Division of Motor Vehicles and, in part, because they do not have the proper documents.

Brinn countered that if people can find a way to the polls to vote, they should be able to find transportation to DMV.

During the discussion, Richardson called the Democrats’ arguments against photo IDs for voters “laughable.”