Politics & Government

The GOP supermajority will write a new voter ID law before more Democrats take office

Republican state legislators in North Carolina plan to write more laws this month to take advantage of the last weeks that they hold a veto-proof majority.

On Tuesday, voters approved four additions to the state constitution. At least two, and possibly three, will require changes to state law: a photo ID requirement for voters, expansion of crime victims’ rights, and protections for hunting and fishing. The fourth constitutional amendment voters approved will lower the cap on the state income tax from 10 percent to 7 percent.

Those constitutional changes will take effect on Nov. 27, when the state elections board certifies results, said Gerry Cohen, former general counsel to the General Assembly. Legislative leaders have scheduled their session to resume that day.

Also on Tuesday, voters kept Republicans in control of the House and Senate but reduced their majorities enough that they won’t be able to block Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s vetoes without help from Democrats. But the new balance of power won’t take effect until lawmakers’ regular session in January.

Legislative leaders have said they planned to take action on voter ID in the November session. Pat Ryan, a spokesman for Senate leader Phil Berger, said Wednesday that staff was just beginning to work on the voter ID and victims’ rights laws, and it was too soon to say what the proposals would look like.

Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore were not available for interviews Wednesday, their offices said.

The legislature could take up other bills that Republicans want to pass before next year, when Cooper gets the power of vetoes that can stick, said Sen. Floyd McKissick, a Durham Democrat.

McKissick said he was prepared for legislation needed for the amendments “and any and all other matters before they lose the supermajority.”

With supermajorities in both the House and Senate, Republicans have been able to disregard Cooper’s objections, knowing they can override his vetoes. Tuesday’s election ended the House supermajority and possibly the Senate’s.

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“I wouldn’t be surprised to see quite a few things appearing on the agenda that none of us are aware of today,” McKissick said.

Voters approved the photo ID requirement for voting 55.5 percent to 44.5 percent, according to unofficial results. Active campaigns organized against photo ID and the other five proposed amendments. Seventeen counties voted against photo ID, including Wake, Durham, Orange, Chatham, and Mecklenburg.

The legislature has wide discretion on what it can require. Photo ID has been a years-long goal for state Republicans. The legislature passed a voter ID law in 2013 that was eventually thrown out in federal court.

As the legislature worked on the 2013 law, the House passed a version that would have made UNC and community college student IDs, employee ID cards, and ID cards issued to municipal government employees, people on public assistance, and emergency responders acceptable at polling places. The legislature ultimately passed a stricter law that excluded all those forms of identification.

Democracy NC, a left-leaning voting rights group, fought the photo ID amendment.

Photo ID requirements “have a track record of denying ballot access to real voters in North Carolina, and we’re committed to protecting those voters now and moving forward,”’ executive director Tomas Lopez said in a statement.

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Database editor David Raynor contributed.
Bonner: 919-829-4821; @Lynn_Bonner
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