RALEIGH, N.C. -- Opponents of a voter ID bill that passed the North Carolina House on Wednesday are not backing down, vowing to continue to fight what they say is a discriminatory practice.
The measure, which passed the House in a 81-36 vote, would require voters to show a state-issued ID in order to vote. It would also make student IDs from public colleges a legal form of identification, but not student IDs from private institutions, and it would tax the parents of college students who register to vote in the state where they are attending school. The changes would go into effect in 2016 if the bill becomes law.
College students quietly protested the bill in the Statehouse Wednesday as the vote took place. They wore black tape over their mouths bearing phrases like "Justice" and "My voice is being silenced."
“You’re saying if you go to a public institution your vote is more powerful than someone who goes to a private institution? It’s not right. It’s inequality,” Tyler Swanson, a sophomore at North Carolina A&T State University and one of the students who participated in the protest, told The Huffington Post.
The bill must pass the Republican-controlled Senate and be signed by Gov. Pat McCrory (R), who supports it, before it can become law. College students are just one group of North Carolinians who would be affected if that happens.
The bill includes plenty of provisions that would disproportionately affect minorities and low-income voters, critics say. Other bills being considered would repeal same-day registration in North Carolina, shorten early voting by one week and put an end to voting on Sundays.
North Carolina NAACP President Rev. William Barber, who has been vocal in his opposition to the measure and is set to announce several civil disobedience events to protest it, compared the voter ID bill to a poll tax and said it would disenfranchise minorities.
“To pass a modern-day poll tax disguised as voter photo ID is to engage in interposition and nullification, blocking freedom and constitutional rights and progress,” Barber told The Huffington Post. He described the state House and Senate leaders and the governor as "George Wallaces of the 21st century."
Advancement Project Co-Director Penda Hair, whose organization submitted testimony to the North Carolina legislature opposing the measure, described the bill as “unconstitutional” and discriminatory “against people of color.”
In reviewing litigation in other states, Hair said, the Advancement Project found that even if IDs are supposed to be free for those who cannot afford them, as is the case with this bill, many people still had trouble obtaining them.
Republicans have repeatedly stated that the voter ID bill would prevent voter fraud, but Democrats argue that the issue of fraud is vastly overblown. According to News21, a national investigative reporting project of the more than 18 million ballots cast in presidential and congressional elections in North Carolina between 2000 and 2011, only 22 cases of fraud have surfaced.