Commentary

Editorial lists four ways to make voter ID “less than awful”

In case you missed it, a Charlotte Observer editorial did a good job yesterday of spelling out four ways that the General Assembly can make voter ID–what it recognizes as “an awful way to protect the integrity of elections”–marginally better. Here’s the conclusion to the editorial:

Here’s how an unnecessary law can be made at least a little better:

Accept a wide range of IDs: The draft bill accepts many IDs not included in the 2013 law, including IDs at schools in the University of North Carolina system. Lawmakers should include IDs from all colleges and community colleges in the state, and the language of the bill should ensure that no students have to get new IDs, as happened in Wisconsin when lawmakers put specific requirements on the student IDs the state would accept. (Update, 11/27: On Monday, at least one lawmaker, Republican Rep. David Lewis, talked about private colleges creating new IDs. It’s unnecessary, and it would likely result in fewer young voters.)

Make getting an ID easy: We’re encouraged that the draft bill allows prospective voters to get a photo ID by providing their address and last four digits of their Social Security number. That shouldn’t change. Elderly and poor North Carolinians should not have to endure the expense and red tape of getting documents they might not have, such as birth certificates. Also: IDs — and replacements for expired IDs — should be free of charge. It will cost struggling North Carolinians enough to go through the time and effort to get them — one study showed that voters in Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas paid from $79-$172 to get “free” voter ID cards.

Allow for exceptions: The draft bill allows for voters unable to get a photo ID to make a “reasonable impediment” declaration to photo ID and cast a provisional ballot. That’s good, but voters with a valid impediment should be able to cast regular votes. That would place less of a burden on county boards of elections, and if impediments are considered valid, there’s no reason to discourage voters by requiring a provisional ballot. Remember, the idea should be to protect the vote, not prevent it.

Paper ballots: Want to protect the integrity of elections? Security experts are urging states to go back to paper ballots and remove touchscreen voting machines that are vulnerable to cyberattacks. Nearly two dozen states have done so. North Carolina should.

Click here to read the entire editorial.

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