House and Senate Democrats recently filed a bill in response to the GOP leadership’s push for voter ID in North Carolina. The Ella Baker Voter Empowerment Act is named after Baker, a black civil rights leader who graduated from Shaw University in Raleigh and was a contemporary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The House version (HB 689) and Senate version (SB 708) both seek to extend early voting, including Sunday voting. The bills also seek to increase poll hours during early voting, create an online voter registration and increase one-stop polling locations, according to The Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
“Under this bill state employees will receive 24 hours of annual paid leave for election service. In addition, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funds will be restored to improve elections in North Carolina. Lastly, all elections officials will have to be certified on election laws and procedures related to voting. In the face of unnecessary bills aiming to suppress the minority vote, we applaud the expansion of voting rights for all North Carolinians as exemplified by this bill,” Barber said.
The bill is in response to the GOP’s push for voter identification, outlined in the Voter Information Verification Act, or VIVA.
According to the bill, VIVA is intended to “restore confidence in government” and promote the electoral process “through education and increased registration of voters.” The bill also seeks to “require voters to provide photo identification before voting to protect the right of each registered voter to cast a secure vote with reasonable security measures that confirm voter identity as accurately as possible without restriction.”