Politics & Government

Speakers cite burdens of new voter ID law

A representative from the N.C State Board of Elections opened Monday evening’s public hearing on rules for voters’ photo identification by reminding the audience that the Board of Elections is not a lawmaking body and has no ability to change a law passed by the state legislature.

Some speakers took note and congratulated the Board of Elections on its careful rule-making, even if they objected to the voter ID law itself. But many said they still wanted to change the law to include student ID cards, among other alterations.

The N.C. General Assembly in 2013 passed the law, requiring voters to present certain types of photo ID issued by the government or by a federally recognized tribe in order to vote. It takes effect in January 2016 and has been challenged in state and federal courts.

One speaker, Mary Riordan, said her last name has changed three times since she’s been eligible to vote, and she didn’t always submit proof of the change to the Board of Elections in a timely manner.

“I, like the majority of voters, was not trying to vote fraudulently,” she said. “I just hadn’t had the time to get all my paperwork in order before Election Day.”

Like other speakers, Riordan encouraged the Board of Elections to allow student IDs to count as valid voter identification. Riordan said she would actually trust a student ID more than a driver’s license, “which has been known to be faked so students can buy alcohol.”

Susan Allemeier, another speaker, recommended the Board of Elections consider implementing a system to document which poll workers reject IDs and thus determine if extra training is needed to avoid bias.

Several speakers, including Lenise Melton, equated the fees associated with getting valid ID to a poll tax. Even though some of the required IDs themselves don’t cost anything, various other forms of identification, like an original copy of a birth certificate, are necessary to have that ID issued and do cost money for a new copy.

Melton said low-income families who have experienced instability in their housing situations are more likely to have lost important documents and thus are particularly burdened by ID requirements.

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