One of the most controversial proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot this fall is also the shortest: “Constitutional amendment to require voters to provide photo identification before voting in person.” Depending on who’s talking, those 13 words are a common-sense step to protect the integrity of the vote — or an attack on hard-won voting rights. The General Assembly voted in June to put the amendment before voters after a federal appeals court found parts of the state’s 2013 voting law unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up the issue on appeal. The people who see a voter ID requirement as an attack include many African-Americans who say the amendment is yet another obstacle intended to discourage minority voting.
Gemale Black, president of the Salisbury-Rowan Branch of the NAACP, says voters he knows are highly motivated to vote against the amendment “because they feel this is a violation of every citizen’s right to be able to vote.”
He sees the amendment as a political ploy that’s already having an impact.
“I also believe that the amendment partially did what it was created and intended to do, which is to discourage voters to stay away from the polls in an attempt to hassle voters,” Black says.
North Carolina voters do not have to present a photo ID to vote in this fall’s elections. Such a requirement was in place for the May 2016 primary, but the federal court ruling prevented that.