Politics & Government

Voter ID becomes law in North Carolina as House overrides veto

Protesters oppose voter ID bill during legislative special session

NC NAACP President Rev. T. Anthony Spearman and Rev. William Barber led protesters at Bicentennial Plaza and into the gallery of the General Assembly during its special session on Tuesday, Nov. 27.
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NC NAACP President Rev. T. Anthony Spearman and Rev. William Barber led protesters at Bicentennial Plaza and into the gallery of the General Assembly during its special session on Tuesday, Nov. 27.

North Carolina voters will be asked to show photo identification when they go to the polls next year, barring intervention by a court.

The Republican-led legislature took the final step to shrug off Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of its photo ID bill, with the House voting 72-40 Wednesday to override after a long debate that touched on the state’s history of voter suppression.

The Senate took its override vote Tuesday.

Minutes after the House vote, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice announced a lawsuit challenging the voter ID law had been filed in Wake County Superior Court.

The Rev. T. Anthony Spearman, president of the N.C. NAACP, said the organization would announce a lawsuit Thursday.

Voter ID has been a long-time goal for Republicans. A voter ID requirement that passed as part of a 2013 bill was thrown out by federal courts in 2016. The 2013 voter ID law was part of a larger elections law that a panel of federal judges said “targeted African-Americans with almost surgical precision.”

Republicans steered a photo voter ID question onto the November ballot as a constitutional amendment, and 55 percent of voters approved it.

Lawmakers followed up with a bill to implement the amendment. Cooper vetoed the bill last week. During a news conference Tuesday, he said the legislature should have waited until next session to talk about voter ID. The legislature will have more Democrats next year, and Republicans will no longer have veto-proof majorities in the House and Senate.

The House vote followed a heated debate in which Republicans criticized Cooper for his veto and Democrats recounted the state’s history of racism, from slavery to the present.

Rep. David Lewis, a Harnett County Republican, said Cooper insulted voters who approved photo ID. Lewis said he worked hard to make it easy for voters to comply with a new law.

The law counts as acceptable IDs driver licenses, passports, military and veteran IDs, tribal enrollment cards, college IDs, state ID cards issued to non-drivers, state and municipal employee IDs, and a new type of ID issued by local boards of election.

People who don’t have the required ID would be able to cast provisional ballots after signing an affidavit at the the polls saying why they do not have one.

Rep. Jimmy Dixon, a Duplin County Republican, said Cooper had shown “contempt for the voters of North Carolina,” and told Cooper “you should hang your head in shame.”

Rep. Darren Jackson, the House Democratic leader, said voter ID had to be viewed in light of “North Carolina’s tragic history of civil and voting rights,” and Rep. Mickey Michaux, a Durham Democrat, recalled that a literacy test, traditionally used to prevent African-Americans from voting, is still in the state constitution. Federal law makes the literacy test unenforceable.

“You don’t have a right to take away my right or anybody else’s right because they can’t supply you with a photo ID,” Michaux said. “It looks like history is going to repeat itself.”

Rocky Mount Republican Rep. Jeff Collins said Democrats were responsible for slavery and Jim Crow.

“The Republicans are the party of emancipation,” Collins said. “I get tired of getting blamed for things the Democrats have done.”

Rep. Grier Martin, a Raleigh Democrat, said that over history, “the racists left the Democratic Party and went to the party where they could oppose African Americans voting.”

When Collins asked who Martin was talking about, Martin replied, “We’ve got several here.”

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Lynn Bonner: 919-829-4821, @Lynn_Bonner

Lynn Bonner has worked at The News & Observer since 1994, and has written about the state legislature and politics since 1999. Contact her at lbonner@newsobserver.com or (919) 829-4821.


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