The measure is particularly significant in North Carolina because a federal appeals court struck down the state’s voter ID requirement in 2016, saying it was part of a larger set of voter restrictions that targeted African-Americans “with almost surgical precision.”
The measure calls for anyone who votes in person to provide photo identification. Lawmakers would then be able to define what kinds of voter ID would be acceptable.
House Speaker Tim Moore (R), one of the sponsors of the measure, said it would help secure the state’s elections.
“This commonsense measure to secure the integrity of our elections system is supported by the vast majority of North Carolinians who know protecting our democracy should be one of lawmakers’ highest priorities,” he said in a statement. “The voters of North Carolina deserve a chance to weigh-in on securing their own rights in the democratic process, and will have the final say on strengthening election protections.”
North Carolina’s own post-election audit found that voter fraud is not a widespread problem in the state. An audit of the 2016 election done by the state board of elections found that just two cases of in-person voter impersonation was referred to prosecutors. The case involved a daughter who allegedly voted in person on behalf of her dead mother to carry out her wishes. Nearly 4.8 million people voted in the 2016 general election in North Carolina.
The legislation needs to get the backing of three-fifths of both the North Carolina House and Senate. Republicans currently hold 75 of 125 seats in the House and 30 of 50 seats in the Senate. Lawmakers could vote on the proposal in the next few weeks, according to WRAL-TV.
Civil rights groups criticized the new push for voter ID in North Carolina on Thursday, arguing that it was an effort to reduce turnout among low-income and minority groups who might not have as much access to acceptable forms of identification as higher-income whites.
“This is the latest in a long line of measures North Carolina legislators have pushed with one clear goal: to suppress voter turnout by making it harder for some of our state’s most marginalized voters, particularly people of color and those with low income, to participate in the democratic process,” Sarah Gillooly, the director of political strategy and advocacy for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, said in a statement.
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s photo ID requirement for voters in 2008. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 34 states have some form of identification requirement. North Carolina is currently one of the 16 that does not.
Allison Riggs, senior voting rights attorney at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, said lawmakers were taking another shot at enacting something unconstitutional.
“It’s unfortunate that legislators think that they can hide another unconstitutional voter suppression effort by putting it on the ballot as a constitutional amendment and trying to trick voters into doing their dirty work for them,” she said in a statement. “A federal court found their previous scheme to require photo ID and limit voting access were blatant attempts to disenfranchise voters of color. What was filed today is no different. This is an obvious effort to implement a policy that has been shot down as being racially discriminatory.”