The politically volatile issue of whether North Carolina should require voters to have photo identification brought an overflow crowd and emotional testimony to the legislature Tuesday. At a public hearing conducted by the House Elections Committee, nearly 100 people argued over whether such a step would ensure election integrity or was an effort to disenfranchise voters. The majority of speakers criticized the proposal, arguing there was little voter fraud in the state and that requiring photos would be an obstacle to voting for those without driver’s licenses. They also argued it would cost the state money. “As many as 1 in 10 voters may not have a valid, state-issued photo ID,” said Sarah Preston, policy director for the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. “That is 600,000 North Carolinians who could be prevented from voting under a strict photo ID law.”
Speakers in favor of a voter ID law said the requirement would increase public confidence in elections and that fraud is more widespread than statistics show. They also argued that ways can be found to provide photo identification at no cost to voters without hurting voter turnout.
“It’s not a Republican issue or a Democratic issue,” said Al Bolton, the Guilford County Republican chairman. “It’s a common-sense issue to ensure that your vote counts. I will make a commitment to help people who don’t have a photo.”