The partisan battle over a voter ID bill didn’t end when Republican legislators failed to override a veto by Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue. The bill is still alive in a House committee, thanks to a deft and perfectly legitimate parliamentary maneuver by the majority leader, Rep. Paul Stam. It can be brought up for another override attempt anytime before the 2011-12 General Assembly session adjourns next year. It could happen when legislators return to Raleigh for a few days next month.
An override requires a three-fifths vote of members present, so the time to return a measure to the floor is when several opponents are absent. Democrats should take that as a warning against letting down their guard. News & Record Raleigh reporter Mark Binker also noted rumors that Republicans might try to pass voter ID requirements through a series of local bills, each one applying to a specific jurisdiction. The governor can’t veto local bills.
This tactic seems unlikely. Voters in one county can’t be made to comply with restrictions that aren’t in force in other counties. An attempt to implement voting policy piecemeal should be challenged in court.
The voter ID bill would mark a major shift in the state’s approach to voting. After many years of providing easier access to the ballot, North Carolina would impose a new restriction. While showing a photo ID would be no trouble for most voters, the few who don’t have one would have to get it. That might pose a difficulty for some.
Poll workers would inherit the task of verifying IDs. As recent news stories point out, the underground market for fake IDs has become very sophisticated. Taking time to closely examine driver’s licenses — and trying to account for faces that have changed since photos were taken — would result in slower-moving lines at polling places. When in doubt, officials may feel pressure to turn voters away.
And why, when North Carolina has no record of significant voter fraud? A handful of cases being prosecuted in Wake County would not have been prevented by voter IDs, the district attorney said.