If anyone starts an office pool on how soon after convening the General Assembly will pass a Voter ID bill, put me down for an hour and a half. Last session, the GOP-dominated House couldn’t secure enough Democratic defections to override Gov. Bev Perdue’s veto of a bill that would have put North Carolina at the vanguard of a nationwide voter suppression movement. House Bill 351, better known by its Orwellian short title, “Restore Confidence in Government,” would have disenfranchised tens of thousands of North Carolina voters. For hundreds of thousands of others, the measure would have created additional burdens to registering and voting by requiring them to obtain a government-issued photo ID, which in turn requires possession of one’s original birth certificate, a valid passport or other official papers.
In the end, the bill’s defeat saved the state costly legal fees. Like similarly harsh laws passed in South Carolina and Texas, this state’s Voter ID bill would have most certainly been squashed by the U.S. Department of Justice. The DOJ would likely have used its preclearance authority under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, setting off a legal battle between the state and the feds just before a critical national election.
Now, with a new Legislature preparing to head to Raleigh, lawmakers are reshaping new Voter ID legislation for the upcoming session, which opens Jan. 9.
In an interview in the Wilmington StarNews, House Speaker Thom Tillis said Voter ID would be introduced early and move quickly. He also indicated that reality is settling in.
“We want to implement it in a thoughtful way that makes it less likely that it’s going to be subject to a legal challenge,” Tillis told the StarNews’ Patrick Gannon.