“Huge” and “unexpected” – that is how Democracy NC is describing the move by the NC legislature to modify the state’s voter ID law on Thursday. The election modification now allows voters without photo ID to cast provisional ballots.
The voter would need to complete a reasonable impediment declaration, detailing why they could not present a valid photo ID. Impediments could include a lack of transportation, family responsibilities, or even one’s work schedule.
Bob Hall, executive director for the watchdog group Democracy NC, issued the following statement on the passage of House Bill 836:
On the heels of hundreds of citizen complaints at voter ID hearings across the state, and after years of mounting public and legal pressure, we are pleased that the NC General Assembly has decided to modify the needless voter ID hurdle that North Carolina voters will face starting in 2016.
Even if just one percent of registered voters do not have an acceptable government photo ID, that would mean over 60,000 North Carolinians would be cheated out of having their voices heard in an election.
The new provisions in HB-836, passed by wide margins in both the NC Senate and House yesterday, add a measure of protection for legitimate voters, a back-up way to provide documentation or confidential data that verify the person at the poll is the voter. The new “reasonable impediment” provision still requires the extra time and uncertainty of filling out a provisional ballot, but now there’s a better chance that the vote will actually be counted.
In the context of a needless and likely unconstitutional law, this is clearly a victory for citizens and citizen participation. During his comments yesterday about HB-836, Rep. David Lewis acknowledged the importance of citizen voices at the recent voter ID rule-making hearings across the state. Democracy North Carolina played a leading role in encouraging hundreds of citizens to attend and speak out at these hearings, and we will continue to work hard to make sure no one is blocked from voting.
Two other points about today’s changes are vitally important. First, most states with ID provisions include versions of the back-up protections adopted in HB-836; not including them threatened to sink the entire ID requirement in a fair court of law.
Second, other provisions remain in the anti-voter Monster Law that are already denying honest citizens their right to vote. Earlier this week, Democracy NC released a report that identified 2,344 voters whose ballots were rejected in 2014 because of changes made by that law; their ballots would have counted in 2012. They are the visible tip of the iceberg of tens of thousands of voters harmed by the many parts of the Monster Law.
We hope that these other measures, along with the convoluted ID requirement, will soon be struck down in court – particularly the elimination of same-day registration, pre-registration for teens, and out-of-precinct provisional ballots.