Responding to criticism that legislators sharply weakened the state’s voter ID law last week, House Rules Chairman David Lewis posted a 1,000-word “open letter” Monday defending the changes. The House and Senate quickly approved the changes last week; the legislation is now on Gov. Pat McCrory’s desk awaiting action. It would set up a process for voters to use a “reasonable impediment declaration” outlining why they couldn’t provide a photo ID at the polls. Voters could claim one of eight reasons, including a lack of transportation, disability or illness, lost or stolen photo ID, or a lack of a birth certificate or other documents to obtain a photo ID. Voters using the form would provide their date of birth or the last four digits of their Social Security number, or show a voter registration card to prove their identity.
Lewis’ letter indicates the move has drawn backlash from Republicans who supported the voter ID requirement in its original form. “There has been considerable angst, in the last few days, over claims we have weakened our voter ID laws,” he wrote. “I reject that claim.”
… Lewis’ letter doesn’t address the timing of the change – just weeks before a federal lawsuit challenging the voter ID law was scheduled to go to trial. The law was passed in 2013, and the photo ID requirement goes into effect next year.
Critics of the law have said the change appears designed to blunt some of the legal arguments against the photo ID requirement.