I was recently asked to show my photo identification three times in one day: once at the local bank, again to rent a car and finally at airport security. As citizens, we are used to proving or confirming our identity for dozens of everyday actions. In fact, we demand it.
We want airport security officials to ask for our photo identification. We know it is in our best interest to show passports when we travel. We want to show photo identification when interacting with our financial institutions. We demand proof of identity to ensure security, validity and certainty in society. So it should be no surprise that three out of four North Carolinians support the same standard when it comes to exercising their constitutional right to vote.
Broad public support for this concept led Republicans in the General Assembly to embark on a months-long process this year to develop voter photo identification legislation. The process included public hearings, hours of expert testimony, dozens of amendments and multiple iterations of the bill.
That process culminated on Wednesday, when 76 Republicans and five Democrats in the N.C. House of Representatives passed House Bill 589, the “Voter Information Verification Act.” The measure is an historic, bipartisan reform that requires individuals to present a photo ID when voting by the 2016 elections.
House Bill 589 uses the 2014 and 2015 elections to identify which N.C. voters might not have an accepted form of government-issued photo identification and establishes a program to provide them a free non-operator photo ID card through the DMV. The free photo ID cards provided through this program will not only protect an individual’s right to vote, but will also improve the ability to meet everyday needs within society.
By the 2016 primary election, voters will be required to provide one of various forms of accepted government-issued photo IDs when they arrive at the polls to vote. The measure also includes specific provisions for senior citizens and handicapped individuals to ensure that voting rights are protected for our most vulnerable citizens. Finally, the bill takes steps to ensure the integrity of provisional and absentee ballots, and directs the State Board of Elections to study the use of modern technology in voting, paving the way for further efficiencies through digital efforts in the future.
While fringe elements have relied on heated rhetoric to frame this issue, we have relied on a pragmatic, fact-based approach that included ideas from both parties and several states. In the process, our voter ID bill has become something that not only restores confidence in government, but gives our most vulnerable citizens new opportunities. Because of House Bill 589, all North Carolinians will have an ability to participate fully in society – not just by voting, but by applying for credit cards, opening a bank account and countless other actions that most of us take for granted.
This bill, in short, is a common-sense step for North Carolina, and its passage is long overdue.
Rep. Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, is speaker of the N.C. House of Representatives. For The Record offers commentaries from various sources. The views are the writer’s, and not necessarily those of the Observer editorial board.
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