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New voter ID poll results

New from the League of Women Voters and Democracy NC:

Super Majority Supports Giving Voters a Non-Photo Option And Opposes Restrictions that Target Particular Groups

RALEIGH – A survey by one of the nation’s most respected polling firms [1] adds new insights into how North Carolinians view a proposed requirement for voters to show a government-issued photo identification document before voting.

The poll by SurveyUSA indicates that 75 percent of voters favor a photo ID requirement, but 70 percent would not turn away a registered voter who doesn’t have one, if the voter signs an affidavit and provides a verifiable ID number such as a date of birth or social security number.

The current version of House Bill 589 does not include this back-up option. The bill allows voters without a photo ID to cast a provisional ballot, but the ballot will not count unless the voter returns after Election Day and shows officials a government photo ID.

The poll indicates a strong majority of voters also oppose voting restrictions that are aimed at a particular party or group, and 74 percent agree with the statement, “Legislators should show evidence of significant problems, such as real voter fraud, before they pass laws that make voting more difficult.”

Only a third of North Carolina voters think passing a photo ID bill should be a high priority.

“The current ID bill is being sold as a way to improve confidence in our elections, but it includes features that voters recognize as unreasonably harsh,” said Jo Nicholas, president of the League of Women Voters of NC, which sponsored the poll.

“A large majority would allow a voter who takes an oath and provides a personal identifying number to cast a ballot,” she said. “That’s what the bill will require of a person who votes through the mail. Why would legislators put a heavier burden on voters who show their face to an election official?”

According to the poll, support for a photo ID requirement drops from 75 percent to 59 percent when callers are told it would have a disproportionate impact on African-American voters. It falls to 54 percent when voters hear that it could cause difficulties for seniors who no longer drive and women with a different name on their driver’s license than their voter registration card.

One reason for sustained support: fully 40 percent of all voters (48% of Republicans) agree that “cases of people voting in the name of someone else are commonplace,” despite the lack of hard evidence.

Republicans are twice as likely as Democrats to say adopting the law is a high priority – but it’s a minority in both parties (47% of Republican vs. 24% of Democrats). Meanwhile, 65 percent of Republicans also say voters without an ID should not be turned away at the polls if they sign an attestation and provide a verifiable identifying number.

“Overall, a photo ID is a lower priority for voters than for politicians, and ordinary voters are more reasonable in how they would apply it,” said Nicholas. “I’m sure they would not understand why legislators would pass a law that says a photo ID from a public college is acceptable but one from a private college is not.”

The poll of 803 voters who mirror the make-up of North Carolina’s 6.4 million registered voters was conducted between April 11 and April 14, with a 3.5 percent margin of error. In addition to the League, it was co-sponsored by the election reform group Democracy North Carolina. Both organizations oppose the voter ID legislation.