Proposed bill isolates voters without photo IDs

Kassondra Cloos
News Editor, The Pendulum

North Carolina House Republicans have proposed a bill to require voters to present photo identification in order to vote in person.

The bill, proposed by Reps. Ric Killian, David Lewis and Tim Moore, indicates that only certain types of photo identification would be accepted, including drivers’ licenses and passports, but not including private university-issued student IDs.

For students and other residents without drivers’ licenses, free voter identification cards will be available through the state government. But this may limit access to the polls for those who are unable to get to their county board of elections to acquire a card.

Graphic by Luke Lovett.

Killian, of Mecklenburg County, said the bill is intended to force people to prove who they are in order to prevent voter fraud.
“It requires formal identification so voters can prove they are who they say they are,” Killian said. “It shows that people aren’t defying the system.”

But George Taylor, professor of political science at Elon University, said the history of voter fraud in North Carolina is relatively clean, rendering such a bill unnecessary.

As the demographic currently without photo identification tends to be lower-income and college students who are more likely to vote Democratic, many, including Taylor, have accused supporters of the bill of attempting to prevent as many Democrats as possible from voting.

“It’s just another barrier to keep people from voting,” Taylor said, adding that higher voter participation generally translates to a better chance of success for Democrats. “We very rarely have voter fraud,” he said.

Both Killian and Lewis, of Harnett County, insisted that voter fraud is a significant problem in North Carolina and they want to ensure their constituents can be confident in that no one else is impersonating them at the polls. There were 261 cases of voter fraud during the 2008 elections, which “came at a significant cost to tax payers,” Killian said.

When asked how those without a method of transportation could get to the county board of elections in order to get an ID to be able to vote, Lewis asked how such people got to work every day and said he did not think it would be challenging for people to find ways to get there.

“How do they get to the polls?” he said. “Our intent is to make IDs as available as they possibly can be.”

But given the availability of poll locations during elections, as they are often stationed extensively throughout communities, residents who do not need to rely on public transportation or carpooling and who are unable to gain access to IDs would be required to vote with absentee ballots rather than in person.

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