Last week, Gov. Bev Perdue vetoed North Carolina's restrictive voter identification bill. Her full statement:
“The right to choose our leaders is among the most precious freedoms we have – both as Americans and North Carolinians. North Carolinians who are eligible to vote have a constitutionally guaranteed right to cast their ballots, and no one should put up obstacles to citizens exercising that right.The bill is part of a tide of anti-voter legislation that has swept the country. Some half a dozen states have passed voter ID laws since January alone. It's part of the Republican "shrink the vote" 2012 strategy, and it's going to affect hundreds of thousands of registered voters in North Carolina alone:
“We must always be vigilant in protecting the integrity of our elections. But requiring every voter to present a government-issued photo ID is not the way to do it. This bill, as written, will unnecessarily and unfairly disenfranchise many eligible and legitimate voters. The legislature should pass a less extreme bill that allows for other forms of identification, such as those permitted under federal law.
“There was a time in North Carolina history when the right to vote was enjoyed only by some citizens rather than by all. That time is past, and we should not revisit it.
“Therefore, I veto this bill.”
The State Board of Elections estimated that as many as 500,000 of the state’s 6.1 million registered voters may not have a form of valid photo identification.When the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Indiana's restrictive voter ID law in 2008, it was only a matter of time before there was a move in nearly every state legislature to duplicate the bill (and its suppression effect).
Local election officials were wary, saying a voter ID requirement could increase the length of time someone spends in line at the polls and increase the difficulty of dealing with provisional ballots — those that voters cast but the board of elections doesn’t count until it can determine if the person should have been allowed to vote.
“We are currently running the cleanest, most accurate elections that have ever been run in the history of this country,” said George Gilbert , who heads the Guilford County Board of Elections. “They’re not perfect, but whenever you have a problem in elections, you need to identify exactly where it’s coming from....I don’t know what problem they’re trying to address.”
Hearings before the House Elections Committee earlier this year produced scant evidence of any statewide voting fraud.
Note that Perdue is not taking voter ID requirements completely off the table—she would sign a bill with less strict photo ID requirements.
Given the legal landscape, voter ID laws are here to stay for the 2012 cycle. The battle in the states is now about the degree of burden on voters. The National Conference of State Legislatures has mapped out the terrain:
"Strict photo" laws mean:
Voters must show a photo ID in order to vote. Voters who are unable to show photo ID at the polls are permitted to vote a provisional ballot, which is counted only if the voter returns to election officials within several days after the election to show a photo ID."Photo" laws mean:
Voters are asked to show a photo ID in order to vote. Voters who are unable to show photo ID are still allowed to vote if they can meet certain other critieria. In some states, a voter with ID can vouch for a voter without. Other states ask a voter without ID to provide personal information such as a birth date, or sign an affidavit swearing to his or her identity. Voters without ID are not required to return to election officials after the election and show a photo ID in order to have their ballots counted in the manner that voters without ID in the strict photo ID states are."Non-photo" laws mean:
All voters must show ID at the polls. The list of acceptable IDs is varied and includes options that do not have a photo, such as a utility bill or bank statement with the voter's name and address."Strict" voter ID laws are being aggressively pushed in the states with the closest 2008 margins. Some have been held until subsequent legislative sessions, others were vetoed, and others are already in effect.
Voting rights advocates have been able to hold the line in some states, and governors in four states have used their veto pens to minimize the damage. Those seeking to making it harder to vote, however, show no sign of letting up. The flurry of activity in the first half of this year will be nothing compared to what we'll see over the next six months as more states try to enact stricter voter ID requirements before the 2012 election.
As we monitor the developments, one this is certain: the Obama campaign will have to implement what may be the most robust voter education initiative ever undertaken by a campaign. If there's any campaign organization that's up to that task, it's OFA.
In the meantime, for more state-specific data and to see what's happening in your own state, check out the NCSL's Voter ID page here.