The N.C. House on Thursday approved a bill that would require North Carolina voters to present a photo ID to vote.
After a nearly two-hour debate, House Bill 351 (“Restore Confidence in Government“) was passed along party lines, 66-48.
Under the bill, state voters would have to present a photo ID when casting a ballot in person. Voters who do not present a photo ID at the polls would have the option of casting a provisional ballot, and would then be required to show a photo ID at their county board of elections office within 10 days after the election.
Supporters of the measure said a photo requirement would guard against voter fraud and instill confidence in the election system.
“I’ve done the best that I know how to do to address a concern that many of my fellow citizens have that the integrity of the elections process is at risk,” said Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett), a primary sponsor of the bill.
Opponents of the measure said documented cases of voter fraud are rare in North Carolina and a photo ID requirement would make voting more difficult for some citizens, especially college students and older voters.
“You have a better chance of getting hit by a bolt of lightning in North Carolina than there is an instance of voter fraud,” said Rep. Rodney Moore (D-Mecklenburg). “You are disenfranchising students who may not have an ID. You will also be effectively impeding the voting patterns of people who are 65 and older who don’t have transportation to get these IDs.”
The proposal would have the state provide photo ID cards free of charge to citizens who do not have another form of photo identification, which could cost the state an estimated $1.4 million per year, according to fiscal analysis by legislative staff.
The legislation would direct the State Board of Elections to use its judicial voter guide, which is mailed to voters across the state in the weeks before Election Day, to inform citizens of the photo ID requirement.
Approval of the bill came on the final day before the crossover deadline, a date by which most legislation must pass one chamber of the legislature in order to be eligible for consideration when lawmakers return for session in May 2012. The bill now goes to the N.C. Senate.
Support in the N.C. House for the voter ID proposal fell short of the 72 votes needed to override a gubernatorial veto. With Republicans in control of 68 seats in the chamber, four votes would be needed from the Democratic minority to overcome a potential veto by Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue.
If passed into law, the photo ID requirement would face review by the U.S. Justice Department and could result in litigation.
“We will vigorously challenge any attempt at voter suppression, taking the fight to the streets and, if necessary, to the courts,” the NAACP of North Carolina wrote in a statement released Thursday.
Hear Thursday’s entire voter ID debate in the N.C. House with the audio player below, provided by VoterRadio.com: