Whether you like it or not, Republican legislators say voter I.D. laws are coming to our state.
Tuesday state House Republicans announced a game plan for introducing a bill later this month that would require all voters to show a photo I.D. before casting their ballot.
"I think it's pretty clear that the majority - nearly 3/4 of North Carolinians - believe that some form of I.D. is an appropriate requirement before they vote," said Republican North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis.
A similar bill passed in the General Assembly two years ago, only to be vetoed by then-Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue. Now, Republican legislators are giving the voter I.D. law another go.
On Tuesday, they announced public hearings and several committee meetings where supporters and opponents can speak out before a new bill is filed in late March.
"Folks, with the understanding that this is a bill that we're going to move forward, give us your - we get that you don't like it - but give us your input on how we can make it the best bill it can be," said Republican North Carolina House Elections Committee Chairman David Lewis.
Opponents plan to fight the bill. They argue any form of a voter I.D. bill is unconstitutional and creates a barrier to voting by weeding out voters like minorities and older people who typically support Democrats.
"We believe voter I.D. laws are a form of voter suppression that will do irreparable harm to the fundamental rights of all people in North Carolina," North Carolina NAACP President Rev. William Barber said earlier this year.
They point to a recent state Board of Elections report that reveals nearly one in ten voters here lack state-issued photo identification – something Republicans say won't be a problem.
"We're going to put together a bill that makes sure that people that have legitimate reasons not to have an I.D. today, that we do everything that we have to to get them an I.D.," Tillis said.
Brad Lockerbie, a professor and chair of ECU's Political Science department, says keeping that promise is vital to the bill passing.
"If they're smart about it, they're going to pass something that's either identical or close to what another state has done," he says. "Or be a little bit more generous in the I.D.s that are allowed so they can pass constitutional muster."
Gov. Pat McCrory supports this bill, and the trend is gaining ground as 30 states already require voters to show I.D.at the polls.
The first step for this bill starts Wednesday with an organizational meeting for the House Elections Committee. A public hearing will be next Tuesday, and the bill will likely be filed by late March.
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