Republicans have rallied around the bill as a panacea for voter fraud, while Democrats have disparaged it as a way to suppress votes.
For Lynda Bennett, head of the Haywood County 9-12 TEA Party, and other similarly minded individuals, the matter boils down to trust in the political system — something that has been wanting in her eyes.
“It starts with having fair elections, with fraud-free elections,” Bennett said.
However, Democrats say the bill will actually make elections unfair by preventing some legal citizens the right to vote. Opponents have also argued that voter fraud is almost nonexistent in the state and therefore needs no remedy.
“These bills that have been introduced are voter suppression bills. They are not to get at voter fraud,” said Luke Hyde, chair of 11th District Democratic Party and an attorney from Bryson City. “It is solutions looking for problems that don’t exist.”
With a Republican majority in the General Assembly, however, the voter identification bill swept through the N.C. House last month, following a mostly partisan vote, and now lies in wait in the state Senate. Both N.C. Representatives Michelle Presnell, R-Burnsville, and Roger West, R-Marble, voted for the bill. N.C. Rep. Joe Sam Queen, D-Waynesville, voted against it.
According to Hyde and others, the bill will succeed only in preventing minorities and immigrants from casting ballots on election days. Since both groups historically favor Democratic candidates, Hyde could only draw one conclusion.
“(Republicans) are trying to win elections by playing fast and loose with voter laws,” Hyde said.
Hyde referred to the bill as a kind of poll tax since it creates an added barrier to voting.
But Bennett said the voter identification bill will only prohibit those from voting who shouldn’t be voting anyway — and those who vote early and often.
“In no way do we want to disenfranchise anyone from voting,” she said.
Bennett said she doesn’t believe it’s too much to ask someone to produce a simple form of identification, such as a driver’s license, state ID card or military ID, in the name of voter integrity.
“We are not asking for some exotic form of ID,” she said.
According to the bill, anyone who cannot produce a valid picture ID may cast a provisional ballot, which is used when a voter’s eligibility is called into question. Provisional ballots are then set aside to be vetted by county boards of elections. If the voter is found to be valid, the ballot is counted when final election results are certified and tallied during the days following an election.
Because of its prominence nationally, the voter identification bill has received the most attention as proponents of both sides work to either kill it or push it through the state chambers.
It is also one of the few election related bills to survive the state’s May 16 crossover deadline — the day by which a bill must pass either the state Senate or House to stay alive. Another controversial bill, Senate Bill 667, did not meet the deadline and died.
That bill would have kept college kids from voting where they went to school if their parents counted them as a dependent on tax returns. Parents could not claim a child as a dependent if that child registered to vote somewhere other than the parent’s address. That would have precluded college students from voting in the district where they attend school.
Hear both sides
Two separate WNC political groups are hosting two separate forums to address voters’ bills circulating through the N.C. General Assembly.
• The Haywood County 9-12 TEA Party is hosting a forum at 6 p.m., Thursday, May 30, at Agriculture Center located at 589 Raccoon Rd. in Waynesville. The event will look at efforts to reduce voter fraud, particularly N.C. House Bill 589, which requires voters to show some form of identification before voting. Jay DeLancy of Voter Integrity Project NC is scheduled to speak.
• The 11th Congressional District Democrats will hold an information workshop from 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday, June 8, at the Haywood County Justice Center in Waynesville.
There will be a presentation by Democracy N.C., a non-partisan organization dedicated to increasing voter participation and decreasing the influence of big money in politics. Members of the N.C. General Assembly and county boards of elections will also attend.