RALEIGH — It appears that 2012 will come and go in North Carolina without voters being required to show photo identification at the polls.
Last year, the legislature approved a measure that would have required most voters to show a photo ID before casting their ballots. Gov. Beverly Perdue promptly vetoed the legislation.
Unlike a lot of her other vetoes, this one stuck.
The bill passed on a strictly party-line vote, with Republicans voting for it and Democrats against. House leaders were unable to sway the handful of Democrats who had voted with them to override other vetoes.
The reason is simple: Most Democratic Party insiders see voter photo ID measures as an attempt by Republicans to gain an electoral advantage; any Democrat who votes for the measure might as well turn in his or her party credentials at the door.
This year, legislative Republicans thought about a compromise to try to woo some Democrats. Talk was that a bill requiring any form of identification with a name and address, including a utility bill, might suffice to get a few Democratic votes.
Eventually, the effort was dropped. Rep. David Lewis, a Harnett County Republican who chairs the House committee that oversees elections, explained that compromise legislation might mean losing Republican votes.
Lewis also recognized that getting any photo ID requirement in place for the upcoming general election was unlikely. The U.S. Justice Department would have to give its OK, and it has blocked a similar law in Texas. Non-government groups also would likely sue to try to stop the law.
And compromise might be unnecessary if Republicans get their guy, former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, in the governor’s mansion next year.
McCrory has been making noise about voter ID for weeks, even urging voters to show photo ID at the polls during the May primary despite the requirement not being in the law.
No doubt, he has seen polls suggesting that a majority of North Carolinians favor a photo ID requirement.
Despite the poll results, Republican leaders ought to think carefully about their quest to impose the photo ID requirement.
Public sentiment may favor the idea now.
History might not be so kind, especially as more evidence is unveiled showing that photo ID really isn’t so much about preventing voter fraud as it is a national effort designed to disenfranchise poor voters more likely to vote Democratic.
To believe that there is widespread, orchestrated voter fraud based on people voting more than once under other people’s names is akin to believing in Elvis sightings and one-world government.
Recent history shows that the far greater threat to valid elections is absentee ballot fraud and voting official incompetence.
At one point, photo ID legislation would have made absentee ballot fraud more, not less, likely. Legislative Republicans also held up state dollars that would draw down federal money designed to improve poll worker training and ballot security.
But surely voter ID is about voter fraud. Why consider those other actions when parsing out motives?
Capitol Press Association