Viewpoint

Who does the NC voter ID amendment target? My mother

This 2016 photo shows North Carolina voter ID rules at a voting precinct. A federal court struck down voter ID laws in the state.
This 2016 photo shows North Carolina voter ID rules at a voting precinct. A federal court struck down voter ID laws in the state. AP

The last thing my mother should have to worry about is a voter ID restriction constitutional amendment, and yet she’s the very type of person it targets.

She works a 13-hour night shift at the local hospital just to keep the family afloat. Her hectic routine might sound painfully familiar to the vast majority of working class families in North Carolina who are far from strangers to exceedingly long work hours, rigid schedules with little leisure time and tight budgets. The realities of juggling jobs, raising children and managing everyday stresses can often leave electoral politics low on the list of priorities for people like my mother — not because they don’t care, but because voting hurdles can be just one more thing for those simply trying to get through the day.

And yet, despite this, or maybe because of it, the North Carolina General Assembly has placed a vague voter ID restriction amendment on the ballot this fall that could put even more hurdles between low-income voters and the ballot box.

You don’t have to be well-versed in public policy or an expert in Southern electoral history to understand what an amendment like this is designed to do. In fact, in order to understand even a fraction of the impact this could have on the most marginalized among us, all you need to do is simply visit a DMV. The long lines and mounds of paperwork are bureaucratic nightmares, turning what might be simple trips into an hours-long commitment.

In rural regions of the state, this is exacerbated by sparse offices — which are often open only in limited time frames that conflict with the average 9-5 workday. The financial costs of acquiring the actual ID are compounded by lost wages, gas, time and extra fees associated with getting the necessary documents. What may seem like minor inconveniences or manageable fees to members of the state legislature can mean far more to those of us already struggling to pay rent and provide for a family.

Given that the amendment doesn’t even tell voters what types of photo ID will be accepted — a detail the legislature will decide ex post facto — even those with certain forms of identification might have to pay more to get an ID that the NCGA will deem acceptable. This amendment is a blank check that lawmakers have asked us to sign, and in return we either pay for whatever ID the General Assembly arbitrarily deems fit or sit the election out.

Photo ID restrictions are yet another attack on poor and working class North Carolinians. The failed promises of “free IDs” the last time North Carolina tried a photo ID requirement disenfranchised voters in the 2016 election, and the implementation of this mandate would cost the state millions of taxpayer dollars that could be put to far better use.

The General Assembly is taking aim, once again, at one of the few ways low-income North Carolinians can advocate for themselves and potentially affect their material conditions. The proposed constitutional amendment is anti-worker, anti-poor, anti-you and anti-me. This fall, vote against.

Roberts is a rising senior at Duke University and an intern at voting rights organization Democracy North Carolina.
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