A report released recently by the state Board of Elections about the potential effects of voter ID legislation should prompt Gov. Pat McCrory to pump the brakes on Republicans’ head-long rush to implement that requirement. With evidence that more than 9 percent of eligible voters in North Carolina lack qualifying identification, the level of disenfranchisement likely to result is far too great.
As has been said previously, instances of voter fraud are incredibly rare in this state, which makes the legislation look more like a solution in search of a problem than a necessary step to protect the integrity of elections. The new governor cannot responsibly pursue a measure with a strict requirement about identification at the polls in light of this recent report.
The high points during the last two years of Gov. Beverly Perdue’s administration were few and far between, but her successful veto of voter ID legislation stands out as one such action. Republicans used their first legislative majority in a century to push the measure, and touted it as necessary to instill confidence in the outcome of elections. The governor vetoed the bill, and a narrow majority sustained that decision.
The state Board of Election quantified the potentially devastating efforts should the measure have become law. It reported that 613,000 voters, or 9.25 percent of North Carolina’s voters, lack the type of photo identification that would have been required at the polls. Democrats account for 53 percent of that number, about 25 percent are seniors, 30 percent are black and 67 percent are women. It would have been disenfranchisement on an epic scale.
While it is true that North Carolina faces instances of voter fraud in its elections, there is no evidence that the problem is so widespread that it would justify barring more than 9 percent of eligible voters from the polls. In fact, Republican officials in other states, most notably in Ohio, have openly admitted that voter ID is being pushed as a means of voter suppression since it disproportionately affects traditional Democratic constituencies.
On the campaign trail, McCrory often said that a voter ID would be a top priority of his administration and with large Republican majority in the General Assembly he can be confident one will be on his desk soon. The only thing standing in his way is a clear conscience, knowing that his signature will make elections less free, less fair and less reflective of what the people — all of the people — want.