N.C. lawmakers are scrambling to sponsor bills that would impact voter identification and straight party balloting. State Sen. Joel Ford, a Charlotte Democrat, introduced legislation last week that would ensure registered voters can cast a ballot even if they lack identification. Ford’s bill, SB 235, would allow voters to present identification at a polling place or have their photo taken on site before casting a ballot. Ford, a freshman lawmaker, is pitching the legislation as an alternative to Republican-backed bills that would require ID in advance of voting. Democrats and progressive-leaning activists have complained that stringent voter ID laws unfairly disenfranchise the young, elderly and racial minorities – core voters in the Democratic camp. Military personnel and absentee voters – who historically vote Republican – wouldn’t be required to present identification.
“The Voter Protection and Integrity Act is a cost-effective, common-sense solution to the voter ID debate,” Ford said in a statement. “It ensures that every vote counts and protects the integrity of the voting process.”
Voter ID has been a political flashpoint since Republicans gained control of the General Assembly in 2011. A Republican-sponsored bill that was sent to then-Gov. Bev Perdue – a Democrat – that year was vetoed. Conservative lawmakers have signaled their intention to pass another bill, but some have shown a willingness to find middle ground to ensure access at the polls.
Two bills – HB 185 and SB 82 – would eliminate straight-party voting while SB 82 would list candidates by party in alphabetical order starting with the governor’s party.
Jordon Greene, founder and president of Free the Vote North Carolina, says dropping party labels as well as straight-ticket voting will open the ballot for alternative candidates. The group backs SB82, which is sponsored by Republicans Buck Newton and Thom Goolsby eliminates straight tickets and party labels. It opposes HB 185 on the grounds that dropping straight-party ballots doesn’t go far enough.
“The straight-party voting system tends to perpetuate this cycle of individuals going to the polls and casting votes based simply on party label in the hopes of voting for someone that shares their common values,” he said.