Despite knowing the NC Voter ID Law would pass, a loyal group of dissenters continue to make their voices heard.
Today, Senate Bill 824, which implements our state’s new constitutional amendment which will require voter IDs in future elections, received a final vote in the NC Senate and has now become the law of the State of NC. I fully anticipate that Governor Cooper will veto this legislation and that his veto will be overridden during this Special Session of the NC General Assembly. Today, protestors were present in opposition to our state’s new voter ID law.
There were a few changes made to the bill by the NC House, the most significant one, in my opinion, will require the NC State Board of Elections to adopt new rules relating to the requesting of absentee ballots in our state. In the future, a person will need to submit some form of photo identification when requesting an absentee ballot. I suspect that other changes could be made to the absentee ballot process. This particular change was enacted as a result of the compelling evidence of rampant voter fraud relating to absentee ballots in Bladen County, NC during the November General Election by a Republican consultant who was working on behalf of Mark Harris, who is a Republican running for Congress from the 9th Congressional District. As a result of ongoing investigations, the election results from the 9th Congressional District and from other races in Bladen County have not been certified by the State Board of Elections. I am optimistic that a new Special Election will be called for the 9th Congressional District so that we can have confidence in the outcome of that race. At this time, the Democrat, Dan McCready, is losing by approximately 905 votes, however, the Republican consultant and his team who were working vigorously in Bladen County on behalf of Mark Harris have submitted hundreds of absentee ballots and absentee ballot applications whose validity is questionable.
Today, Senate Republicans attempted to politicize the Bladen County situation by asking that Governor Cooper appoint a special task force to investigate absentee balloting in Bladen County, however, the scope of the task force’s investigation appears to be much broader than what is necessary or justified. We have a State Board of Elections which is lawfully charged with conducting investigations into the Bladen County situation as well as a District Attorney who can take action if criminal charges are necessary. That should be sufficient to address this current crisis that we are facing. We need to get the necessary investigations completed as expeditiously as possible, and, hopefully, a new Special Election can be conducted that will allow the voters of the 9th Congressional District to have a legitimate voice and Representative in Congress.
Today, the North Carolina Senate passed Senate Bill 824 which implements the recently passed constitutional amendment that allows for voter IDs beginning next year. The voter ID bill that passed 2nd reading today is far broader and more expansive than the bill that was stricken down in Federal Court as being unconstitutional several years ago. The bill passed today would allow for County Boards of Elections across our state to issue Voter Identification Cards to anyone who can provide their name, date of birth, and the last 4 digits of their social security number. The bill, as originally proposed, would’ve allowed these new Voter Identification Cards to expire 8 years after issuance. Today, I was able to obtain bi-partisan support for an amendment to the bill that extended the expiration date of these ID cards to 10 years. In addition, the amendment will require local Boards of Elections to send a notice to those who have the cards advising them that their cards will expire 90 days in advance of an ID’s expiration date. In addition, the amendment would not require a voter to present an ID if they were in an area which had experienced a natural disaster within 100 days of an election. Initially, a 60-day window was proposed.
In addition to these new Voter Identification Cards, a person could present the following forms of ID:
All of the above forms of identification would need to be valid and unexpired, or, it must’ve been expired for one year or less, however, if a voter was 65 years old at the time he or she presented the ID, and the ID card was unexpired on the voter’s 65th birthday, then it would be acceptable.
In addition to the amendment which I ran, Senator Warren Daniel ran an amendment to correct another issue I was concerned about which involved circumstances and standards under which a voter without an ID could sign a Reasonable Impediment Declaration Form which would allow them to vote without an ID. Senator Daniel agreed to use standards that provided greater specificity than those that appeared initially in the current bill.
While I oppose a voter ID requirement, It is now, however, the law of the State of NC and a part of our state’s constitution. Therefore, our challenge is to make sure that as many people who are lawfully registered to vote today will be able to continue to vote in the future, and that their access to photo ID’s or understanding exceptions where an ID would not be required is absolutely imperative. I will continue to work to protect the cherished constitutional right to vote so that we minimize those that are hindered by this new law.
In case you missed it, yesterday, a draft bill was released which will establish criteria for voters to obtain and use photo IDs in future elections in NC. This bill will be voted on during the Special Session of the General Assembly which will begin November 27th and it will implement the new NC Constitutional Amendment approved by voters a few weeks ago which will require all voters in future elections to present an acceptable photo ID card before a lawfully registered person will be able to vote.
The bill will allow local County Boards of Elections to issue voter photo identification cards which would be free to voters in order to obtain such a card, a voter would have to provide his or her date of birth and the last 4 digits of the person’s social security number. The voter photo ID cards would expire eight years after the date of issuance. The photo ID cards can be issued at any time except during the period between the end of the voter registration deadline for an upcoming election and the actual election day. If a person were to lose or deface a photo ID card, a person could obtain a duplicate without charge. In addition to the cards that will be issued by County Boards of Elections, a person could use the following forms of ID:
-A Valid NC Driver’s License
-A Special Identification Card issued by the NC Division of Motor Vehicles
-A Valid US Passport
-A Valid Tribal Enrollment Card issued by a Federally Recognized Tribe
-A Student Identification Card from a State University in NC
-A Valid Driver’s License or Special Identification card issued by another state, however, it would only be good if the voter’s registration has occurred within 90 days of an election.
-A Military Identification card issued by the United States government
-A Veterans Identification card issued by the US Department of Veteran Affairs
All of the above forms of identification would need to be current and unexpired, however, if a voter was 70 years old at the time he or she presented the ID, and the ID card was unexpired on the voter’s 70th birthday, then it would be acceptable.
If for some reason a person did not have an acceptable form of ID, then they could cast a provisional ballot and it would be counted if the voter were to bring in a valid photo ID to the County Board of Elections no later than the end of the business day prior to the canvassing of votes for an election by the County Board of Elections. In addition, a voter could sign a Reasonable Impediment Affidavit upon which a voter could identify one of several reasons why the person was unable to obtain a photo identification card. Lastly, a voter would not have to produce a photo ID if they had a religious objection to being photographed, however, the voter would be required to complete an affidavit under penalty of perjury to that effect.
The proposed legislation I have reviewed is a step in the right direction, however, there is still a need to broaden its provisions to ensure that none of the 300,000 people who are lawfully registered to vote today, who do not have government-issued IDs, will still be able to vote as they have in the past, without discrimination, harassment, or difficulties.