Republican lawmakers failed Tuesday to override a veto by Gov. Beverly Perdue that would have required voters to show photo identification before casting an in-person ballot. The House voted 67-52 in favor of the override, five votes short of what’s needed to move it to the Senate.
Republicans argued the photo ID mandate would discourage voter fraud. Democrats said the requirement is unnecessary because reports of fraud are few and that it would only lead to voter suppression, particularly older people, minorities and women.
The override question spurred passionate debate about voting in an era in which citizens show identification to enter government buildings or get on an airplane but only a half-century since blacks in the Jim Crow-era South were discouraged from voting because of the color of their skin.
“This bill is an insult to me. It’s an insult to the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King,” said first-term Rep. Rodney Moore, R-Mecklenburg. “Right now, I feel like my rights have been raped. Yes I do because there is no substantive problem in North Carolina with voter fraud and this is purely, purely an attempt at voter suppression.”
Perdue said in her veto message that no one should make it tougher to vote. GOP legislative leaders contend polls show strong support for voter ID and that Perdue vetoed the measure to please her base of Democratic supporters.
Several Republican House members have said voter identification is one of the most important issues to their constituents.
“How can you possibly vote against a requirement where in one instance you have to show a photo ID (in Winston-Salem) to panhandle but not show a photo ID to do the most important and sacred thing that we do as citizens?” said House Speaker Pro Tempore Dale Folwell, R-Forsyth.
Democrats argue the bill was purely partisan. About 147,100 active black voters do not have photo ID, according to the election reform group Democracy North Carolina. The bill didn’t even consider potential fraud problems with obtaining absentee ballots, said House Minority Leader Joe Hackney, D-Orange.