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Rep. Presnell revisits voter ID issue

North Carolinians will be asked this November to weigh in on the controversial issue of voter ID if a bill introduced June 7 by Rep. Michele Presnell, R-Burnsville, gains approval. 

“Current law does little to detect and prevent voter impersonation,” Presnell said in a statement from her office June 8. “We should do all that we can to ensure the security of our elections process.”

The previous day, Presnell and House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, introduced House Bill 1092 which proposes adding “Every person offering to vote in person shall present photo identification before voting in the manner prescribed by law,” to Article VI of the North Carolina Constitution.

Polling data cited by Presnell from Civitas, Elon, Fox News, Gallup and Rasmussen suggests that between 69 and 73 percent of North Carolinians and 70 to 80 percent of all Americans support the idea; the polls ranged from June, 2011, through February 2018. 

While Presnell claims broad support for the concept as a whole, the manner in which it was implemented and the consequences of its implementation led the U.S. Supreme Court in 2017 to strike North Carolina’s previous voter ID law as unconstitutional in that it targeted African Americans “with almost surgical precision.”

This time around, Presnell’s on the offensive. 

“Opponents of voter ID want to deny the mechanism needed to prove voter fraud and then turn around and say there is no proof of voter fraud,” she said in an email, decrying “the media” and “special interest groups” for creating a “false narrative” around the issue. 

“A strong majority of all communities support Voter ID laws,” Presnell said. “Why would a majority of the minority community support a law that would suppress their own votes?”

A constitutional amendment, said Presnell, would enshrine the principle within the very document that delineates the most basic of rights, including the right to vote. 

“There will undoubtedly be an onslaught of half truths and whole lies from the media and special interest groups as we debate the voter ID bill,” she said. “I would encourage everyone to look deeper into any sources used by these groups. More often than not, their interpretations of data sources are deeply infused with their own biases.”

Presnell is currently in her third term and is seeking a fourth; during that time, there has been just one conviction for voter fraud — 52 year-old Republican Dewey George Gidcumb, who voted in Haywood County during one-stop voting prior to the 2016 Primary Election, and then voted again in that election on Election Day. 

The double vote was caught by Robert Inman, director of the Haywood County Board of Elections; Gidcumb said he’d simply forgotten, but was given a suspended sentence of 5 to 15 months, along with probation, community service, a fine and an order to pay court costs. 

Presnell will face a familiar opponent this November, a Democrat she beat handily in 2016. 

“While she is choosing to spend her time playing politics, I’m figuring out ways to ensure the prosperity of the district by talking with voters,” said Rhonda Cole Schandevel of Beaverdam. 

Schandevel ran a well-funded and vigorous campaign two years ago, and could be more competitive this time around if an anticipated anti-Trump Republican backlash materializes, however Presnell remains popular in her district and has consistently won re-election with increasing margins. 

“In the spirit of compromise, I offer the suggestions of standardizing the ballot casting process, with the creation of a uniform system in all 100 counties,” Presnell said. “That’s in conjunction with the idea of voter registration at birth.”

Presnell’s bill passed its first reading and was referred to the House Committee on Elections and Ethics Law. 

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