House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- North Carolina House Republicans are trying to pass legislation that demands people show photo identification before they enter a voting booth, even though it appears the measure would face a veto from Gov. Beverly Perdue.
The House returned Thursday to debate further a politically divisive voter ID bill after the Republican-led chamber conducted the first of two required votes just before midnight Wednesday following just a few minutes of debate.
The bill was tentatively approved on a 67-50 party-line vote, but the GOP margin falls a few votes shy of overcoming any potential veto. Perdue's office has been critical of the legislation, and Democrats and voting rights advocates have called it a veiled method to suppress voting among blacks, older adults and women.
House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, said the measure is about responding to complaints from constituents worried about illegal voting. Republicans made voter ID a part of their campaign platform last fall as they took control of both the House and Senate for the first time in 140 years.
GOP leaders in other states are pushing similar legislation, but a chief sponsor of the North Carolina legislation said there's no national conspiracy to boost GOP candidates with the ballot restrictions.
``When the election is fair, the votes are cast fairly, it protects everyone,'' said Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, at the start of Thursday's debate. ``It just doesn't protect one side of the aisle or the other side of the aisle. It protects everyone equally.''
The measure, called ``Restore Confidence in Government,'' would still have to pass the Senate before it goes to Perdue. Earlier this week, Perdue communications director Chrissy Pearson said it appeared ``Republicans are attempting to disenfranchise citizens who may not agree with their political point of view.''
The bill would demand a voter provide one of eight forms of photo ID, including new, free voter cards that would be generated by county elections boards. A person who doesn't have a photo ID could cast a provisional ballot and go later to county elections officials to prove their identity. The Division of Motor Vehicles also would issue special non-driver ID cards for free to people who don't have another form of identification.
Democrats argue voter ID legislation is a solution in search of a problem that doesn't exist and would cost the state millions of dollars to implement. The incidence of fraud is rare, they say, and it's already a felony for someone to vote using someone else's name. Democrats aren't sold on Republicans' insistence that motives behind the bill are nonpartisan.
Black lawmakers referred to the efforts by civil rights leaders to protect voting rights after decades of Jim Crow-era restrictions to plead with Republicans to oppose the bill they say will quell voter participation.
``This is part of an organized national strategy to find a way to disenfranchise voters to oppose you at the polls, there is no other purpose,'' said Rep. William Wainwright, D-Craven, who is black. ``This bill is partisan politics at its worst. This is not restoring confidence in government. You are increasing suspicion of government.''
The state has about 556,000 registered voters who don't have identification issued by DMV, but it's unclear how many of them have alternative forms of qualifying IDs, according to researchers who work for the General Assembly.
The bill is modeled on a 2006 law in Georgia, which has been upheld by the courts. Republicans say Georgia saw a higher increase in voter turnout among black voters during the 2008 election compared to black voters in North Carolina.
``The requirements to prove who you are according to this bill are the same for all citizens,'' said Rep. Ric Killian, R-Mecklenburg, another sponsor of the bill.
Twelve states now have laws that require or request photo identification of voters, while 16 others require ID without a photo, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.