A Republican bill requiring voters to present photo identification passed the North Carolina House Wednesday in a vote that split mostly along party lines. The Republican-controlled House approved the bill 81-36 following nearly three hours of amendments and partisan-charged debate. The bill now heads to the Senate, where Republicans also hold a substantial majority. Most Democratic amendments to ease restrictions failed, but one from Rep. Charles Graham, D-Robeson, restored state tribal ID to the forms of ID accepted under the bill. He later crossed party lines to vote in favor of the bill.
Voter ID legislation has sharply divided Republicans and Democrats nationally and in North Carolina where the GOP won control of the legislature in 2010. A previous attempt by Republicans to enact voter ID failed in 2011 when then-Gov. Beverly Perdue vetoed it. Republican Gov. Pat McCrory supports voter ID.
Republicans argue the bill will prevent fraud while Democrats and civil rights groups say the real motivation is suppressing turnout among those less likely to have ID. Also stoking Democratic opposition are memories of Jim Crow era voting restrictions among older African-American representatives.
The bill would require voters to present one of nine forms of state-issued ID starting in 2016. IDs from public colleges and Native American tribes are also accepted. Voters could cast provisional ballots if they don’t bring ID to the polls but would have to return later to a board of election with ID for their ballot to be counted.
The bill, estimated to cost upwards of $3.7 million, also authorizes a newly created board to lead a voter education campaign and reimburses Division of Motor Vehicle branches that will offer free ID. Republicans say those costs could be less substantial, depending on how many people seek the free ID.