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Cooper’s voter ID veto overridden

Legislation implementing North Carolina’s first-ever voter ID requirement passed both the House and the Senate Dec. 6, but a veto by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper had Republicans scrambling back to the legislative chambers to override it before their power to do so evaporated. 

“Requiring photo IDs for in-person voting is a solution in search of a problem,” said Cooper Dec. 14. “Instead, the real election problem is votes harvested illegally through absentee ballots, which this proposal fails to fix.”

Cooper was referring to the as-yet unresolved election in N.C.’s 9th Congressional District, where credible allegations of improper absentee ballot collections have tainted the results and drawn attention to election security in a way not often seen. 

“Governor Cooper’s veto explanation for the reasonable and bipartisan voter ID bill is a tired rehash of unconvincing talking points rejected by the voters,” said Senate President Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, Dec. 14. “Despite the Governor’s personal feelings on voter ID, the fact remains that the constitutional amendment passed with a broad mandate from North Carolinians. The Governor is putting special interests ahead of the people’s will, and we plan to override the veto.”

In issuing the veto, Cooper also cited “barriers to voting that will trap honest voters in confusion and discourage them with new rules, some of which haven’t even been written yet.” The bill, according to Cooper, has “sinister” origins “designed to suppress the rights of minority, poor and elderly voters.”

Those rules stipulate that voters can produce a military identification card issued by the United States government or an ID issued by the Veterans Administration regardless of whether or not they contain an expiration date. 

Valid IDs or IDs expired less than one year are also permissible, provided they are a North Carolina driver’s license or other non-temporary ID issued by the Division of Motor Vehicles, a passport, a tribal enrollment card, any UNC student ID card or that of other eligible postsecondary institutions, an employee identification card issued by a state or local government, a drivers license from another state if registered less than 90 days before an election, or a North Carolina voter photo identification card.

That card would be available free of charge to voters and wouldn’t expire for 10 years; the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement would supply county elections boards with the equipment to print the cards. 

“I am happy with the way the voter ID bill came out,” said Sen. Jim Davis, R-Franklin. “Voter ID just helps ensure that the person voting is the person who is registered.”

But Davis did seem to share at least one thing in common — the desire to ensure that other forms of voter fraud can also be prevented. 

“I am sure you have heard about the absentee ballot problem in Bladen County, which appears to be expanding to Pender County as well,” he said. “Absentee ballots are where the greater exposure for fraud lies.”

Rep. Michele Presnell, R-Burnsville, said she was supportive of the final product. 

“The House passed a bill to enact voter ID in North Carolina to satisfy our state’s constitutional mandate to require photo ID for voting. It was the best we could do in order to pass the courts,” said Presnell.

In her Dec. 7 constituent newsletter, Presnell expressed concern that because university IDs vary widely across the state she was concerned there would be potential for fraud.

Prior to implementation, Presnell said, changes will be made to college IDs that will make them more uniform across the state. 

Implementation is now a done deal for legislative Republicans; following up on Berger’s vow to override Cooper’s veto, Republicans used their soon-to-be gone veto-proof supermajority Dec. 18 to do just that. 

“On Election Day, voters made their desire for voter ID very clear. By choosing to ignore the people of N.C., Gov. Cooper has shown his personal beliefs supersede a democratic vote of the people,” said Berger in a press release. “North Carolinians deserve leaders they can trust to carry out their will, and that is why I am happy we were able to override the Governor’s veto.”

In November, 55.49 percent of North Carolina voters approved a ballot question that sought to include the voter ID provision in the state’s constitution. Haywood County voters approved it with 61 percent for, Jackson County with 52 percent, Macon County with 68 percent and Swain County with 62 percent. Buncombe and Watauga counties were the only counties west of Charlotte to vote no on the measure. 

Those same voters, though — across the state and the region — also chose to send more Democrats to the state legislature, breaking the Republican veto-proof supermajority when the next legislative session convenes sometime in early January.

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