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N.C. voter ID, other changes unnecessary

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    The Read to Achieve discussion Thursday at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church starts at 6 p.m. The panelist from Lincoln County will be schools Superintendent Sherry Hoyle.



We’ve said all along that GOP lawmakers’ push for voter ID in North Carolina was more about suppressing the votes of Democrats than tackling fraud. The restrictive N.C. Senate bill unveiled last week that some legislators are trying to ram through in the waning days of the legislative session this week proves the point.

The bill reduces by half the types of photo identification that were allowed under the House version, and makes it particularly onerous for college students to vote. Under the Senate bill, no college ID card would be acceptable. The House bill does allow student IDs, but only from N.C. schools. The Senate limits acceptable IDs to those issued by the government – driver’s license, passports, non-driver IDs and military or veteran cards. The bill also eliminates measures designed to educate voters about vote law changes.

N.C. lawmakers already targeted student voters in other legislation. A bill introduced earlier this session penalizes parents by taking away their $2,500 tax deduction for a dependent if their child registers to vote at their college address rather than the parents’ address. The bill also requires voters to have their vehicles registered at the same address as their voter registration. That also could cut down on college student registration, since many students maintain their vehicle registration in their home counties.

These and other proposed voting restrictions – including bills that would shorten early voting and end same-day registration during early voting, plus provisions to make it more difficult for provisional ballots to count and for ex-felons to vote – feel like voter suppression, not voter integrity. An assessment by Democracy North Carolina of the proposals’ impacts buttress that contention.

More than 318,000 registered voters lack an N.C. photo ID, including 40,724 here in Mecklenburg, the study shows. Unsurprisingly, the photo requirement disproportionately affects blacks. They are 23 percent of all registered voters but 34 percent (107,681) of those without a N.C. photo ID. Whites make up 54 percent of those without a photo ID, or 172,613.

Women, too, are disproportionately affected: They make up 54 percent of voters but 64 percent of those without a state photo ID. Women are nearly twice as likely as men not to have an ID – 202,714 women versus 106,713 men. Democrats are nearly three times as likely not to have a photo ID as Republicans – 176,091 Democrats as opposed to 67,639 Republicans.

The legislation does say that those without a state-recognized photo ID would be able to get one for free. But it’s not really free; we taxpayers get to foot the more than $1 million estimated cost.

These changes are a wasteful boondoggle. They are solutions in search of a problem. In-person voter fraud is negligible in this state. Rather than stop fraud, which happens most often in absentee ballots where photo IDs won’t help, these changes will only make it more burdensome for legitimate voters to cast a ballot.

Lawmakers should reject these bills. But if they won’t, they should at least remove the most onerous parts of them.

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