I spent Monday morning at the NCGA Select Committee on Elections hearing regarding the draft bill for the new Voter ID amendment. Announcement of the meeting was only sent out last Friday over a holiday weekend. They plan to submit a bill for consideration tomorrow. Are you thinking what I am thinking? How on earth could they possibly put together a well thought out bill that reflects the input of their constituents? Welcome to the North Carolina General Assembly under the Republican supermajority. What’s the hurry you ask? The supermajority was voted out of existence in the midterm elections, so they are using their lame duck session to try to ram a constitutional bill through before the new representatives take their seats in January.
The session started with a review of the draft bill. Key provisions in the bill include the need for all voters to present photo identification upon voting. According to the draft, the state directs elections boards to have the equipment and staff to enable all voters, upon their request, to obtain a voter ID free of charge. However, the bill does not state that funding will be provided nor does it state how citizens will actually obtain the voter identification card. Photo IDs that will be accepted are: NC driver’s license or identification card, passport, NC voter ID card, tribal enrollment card, student IDs from the UNC system, military IDs, veterans IDs, and any expired IDs presented by a person over 70 so long as it wasn’t expired when they were 70.
After the review, there was a presentation by the Hope Williams of the North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities asking the legislators to include private college student IDs into the bill. She pointed out that in order to obtain a student ID, students must have already provided the school with SSNs, tax forms for financial aid, ID for taking the SAT and ACTs. Their IDs function as their door keys and their bank accounts for meal plans. Needless to say, but apparently it does need to be said, they require much more information than the DMV.
There was an open comment period for those who had signed up ahead of time limited to thirty people. Dallas Woodhouse, Executive Director of the NC Republican party was there along with others wearing “I Support Voter ID” buttons. Many speakers recommended that the state tighten up the number of types of ID to accept for voting. One woman, who did not give her name, even recommended the the REAL ID be the only one accepted since they prove citizenship. Too bad she doesn’t know that non-citizens in NC can get a REAL ID too. Others were “appalled” at the idea of allowing college students to use their student IDs saying that there is no way to know if college students are voting at home as well. Some even went so far as to label college students as “visitors” to the state. Another man said that “illegals” who are willing to “cross the Rio Grande” are likely to be willing to commit voter fraud too.
I’m not going to lie, I found this experience to be depressing. I arrived thinking that I would see democracy in action with citizens giving their input as to how to make the bill better for the people of the state. Instead, I saw a specific constituency spread misinformation about voting and voter fraud in this state. We will see how this all develops, and I can only hope that something happens tomorrow that will slow down this process.