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GOP lawmakers file voter ID bill

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House Speaker Thom Tillis House Speaker Thom Tillis

Supporters of a voter identification bill introduced the proposed legislation Thursday in the North Carolina House that will put strict measures in place by Jan. 1, 2016.

Rep. Harry Warren (R-Rowan), Tom Murry (R-Wake), Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) and Ruth Samuelson (R-Mecklenburg) are the primary sponsors of House Bill 589, the Voter Information Verification Act. Lawmakers filed the bill Thursday afternoon.

Thursday morning, House Speaker Thom Tillis announced the bill's introduction and spoke confidently of it becoming law.

"The citizens of North Carolina want some form of voter ID legislation," Tillis said Thursday. "I believe it really does restore a level of confidence in voter outcomes."

Tillis said the bill "will lay the groundwork for better and more accurate voter rolls."

While establishing a requirement for voters to provide proper identification at the polls, the bill also establishes a three- to five-member bi-partisan Voter Information Verification Advisory board. The board's duties include:

  • Promote voter registration
  • Assist in voter registration drives
  • Assist in recruiting poll workers for election day
  • Provide education to the public about voter registration and casting a ballot
  • Assist, as requested, in other matters related to voter registration, voting, counting of ballots and candidacy for elected office
  • Develop a system of identifying and training volunteers
  • Attend training for county board of elections members
  • Reach out to State and local governmental agencies, political parties and nonprofit organizations to help identify registered voters without proper photo identification and assist those voters in obtaining proper identification

Since talks of a voter ID bill began, the measure has had strong opposition, with some complaining that the law would solve a problem that doesn't exist -- and at great expense. Jo Nicholas, president of the North Carolina League of Women Voters, called the measure "a wasteful use of taxpayer's money."

Nicholas, in comments before the Elections Committee March 13, said the move would "potentially oppress tens of thousands of registered voters without a valid photo ID due to disability, age, illness, transportation or financial issues."

Sen. Martin Nesbitt, the Minority Leaders, said of the Republican efforts, "I don't know when they will understand that you at some point have to be nice to somebody if you want to continue to win elections.

"I guess they think they can do it by gerrymandering and pushing people out of their districts."

Supporters of the bill said the provisions in the bill were designed to address concerns. For example, if someone has a valid ID at the age of 70, that ID is always valid.

"We are going to allow for multiple forms of ID," Murry said. As written, the bill defines proper identification as, "An identification card that bears either a date of expiration or a date of issuance and that is not more than 10 years beyond the date of expiration or issuance, whichever is later, issued by a branch, department, agency or entity of the United States, this State or any other state."

Warren said the bill was crafted with the concerns about voter suppression and disenfranchisement in mind. He said a new voter identification agency, with 14 employees, would work with the counties on the issue.

"The act also directs the state Board of Elections to study the idea of going digital to create a statewide database of photographs," Warren said.

Murry said those who meet the federal definition of having a disability will not be required to have a photo ID.

Murry said the bill would have a "soft launch" in 2014.

"This is a long process," Murry said. "Jan. 1, 2016 is when we start requiring strict photo ID."

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