The North Carolina NAACP has filed a complaint with the state Board of Elections and the Guilford County district attorney against the campaign of N.C. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger (R) over a TV and internet ad that could mislead viewers on the status of the state’s voter ID requirement. Under a sweeping election law passed last year by the Republican-controlled legislature and signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory (R), voters will have to show a photo ID beginning in 2016. But that’s not the impression some might get from watching the ad, which states:
You need a photo ID to drive, cash a check, even to buy medicine. Shouldn’t you show a photo ID to vote? Liberals like Obama and Kay Hagan say no. Phil Berger fought the liberals and won. Now, thanks to Phil Berger, voters must show a valid photo ID to vote.
Berger’s ad does not qualify that the photo ID requirement will not be in effect for this election. The ad first began airing a year ago, but the NAACP said it just became aware of it when the 30-second spot aired recently on television in Guilford County and other areas.
The complaint cites the section of North Carolina law that says any person who in connection with an election directly or indirectly misrepresents the law to the public through any means of communication “where the intent and the effect is to intimidate or discourage potential voters from exercising their lawful right to vote” shall be guilty of a Class I felony, which carries a prison sentence of three to 12 months.
Al McSurely, an attorney for the NC NAACP, said he believes the ad in question “was intentionally designed and vetted by various media types in the extremist wing of the Republican Party to be part of a national strategy” to reduce turnout, especially of low-information voters. He said he would like to see Berger run a corrective ad clarifying that voters do not need to present an ID to cast a ballot in this year’s election.
The controversial ad was paid for by Berger’s campaign committee, whose top contributors include Duke Energy, Nationwide, Bank of America, and the N.C. Republican Party, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.