Details on how North Carolina’s new constitutional mandate for photo voter identification will be carried out received preliminary state Senate approval Wednesday in a measure offering more ID options and exceptions than previous legislation.
The proposal implements the constitutional amendment approved by a majority of voters earlier this month. This directive, along with a number of concessions Republicans made to address criticisms of previous bills, led to some bipartisan support in a 32-11 vote. One more Senate vote is needed Thursday before the explanation of qualifying IDs and exceptions heads to the House for consideration.
“On Election Day, voters made it clear that they had decided that we need to add a voter ID to our constitution, so we are following through,” said Sen. Joyce Krawiec, a Forsyth County Republican and bill co-sponsor, said during the hour-long floor debate. “All of those changes have made it a better bill.”
The proposal marks the third time this decade the GOP-controlled legislature has advanced photo ID legislation. The other two were derailed by veto or court decisions. Federal judges ruled a wide-ranging 2013 voting law that contained voter ID was struck down for being approved with discriminatory intent against black voters.
This stand-alone ID measure would expand greatly the number of permitted ID, including student IDs from public and private colleges and universities and community colleges, as well as employee ID cards for state and local governments. Those IDs must meet certain security thresholds.
There also would be a new free, photo voter identification card that county election boards produce. These are all in addition to qualifying driver’s licenses, passports and military and tribal ID cards. People who can’t obtain an ID card can sign a form at the voting place explaining why they can’t and still cast ballots.
The Senate approved three Democratic amendments, and three Democrats joined all Republicans present in voting for the full measure. Republicans also are pressing ahead now because Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, a longtime voter ID opponent, can’t stop any bill through the end of the year while the GOP still holds veto-proof majorities.
Cooper declined to say earlier Wednesday whether he would still veto the measure, saying he wants to see the bill first. He and other Democrats say the absence of widespread voter impersonation makes such laws unnecessary.
“It is a solution in search of a problem, and there is no problem with this. I think it’s wrong for our state,” Cooper told reporters.
Some Senate Democrats acknowledged the referendum requires a voter ID bill be passed but said Republicans are rushing and are likely to harm poor residents and minorities most.
It’s “not the careful, thoughtful approach that we should be taking with our sacred right to vote,” said Sen. Mike Woodard, a Durham County Democrat. IDs would be required starting May 1 but voters could still vote without one until early 2020.
The Senate earlier Wednesday gave unanimous approval to two other measures and sent them to the House.
One would distribute up to $300 million already sitting in a Hurricane Florence relief fund for several storm recovery needs. The largest amount — $250 million — would go to assist farmers and commercial fishermen. The other would more than double the amount of state money offered to certain companies that promise to bring lots of high-paying jobs.