Gov. Pat McCrory and House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg) appear to be shifting their positions slightly on potential voter ID legislation, recently saying they would be open to other forms of identification beyond state-issued photo ID. This is a welcome change from a hardline stance that had the potential to leave many voters without access to the ballot box. In fact, according to a new report from the State Board of Elections, that number could be as high as 1 in 10 North Carolina voters.
Photo ID legislation was one of the hardest fought, and most controversial, battles in the previous General Assembly. Republicans overwhelming favored such legislation as a way to tackle voter fraud and Democrats were universally opposed to placing additional burdens on voters. Gov. Bev Perdue ended up vetoing the legislation and House Republicans were unable to convince any Democrats to join them in voting to override the veto.
The bill passed in the last session, House Bill 351, was a strict photo-ID-only requirement, meaning voters had to have a government-issued photo ID in order to cast a ballot. However, it now seems that both McCrory and Tillis would be open to accepting alternate forms of identification, such as voter registration cards, which are already mailed to voters when they register, or other government documents.
If the legislature takes up a bill with less strict identification requirements it has the potential to diffuse some of the controversy that swirled around HB 351 in 2011. However, it remains to be seen what a voter ID bill will ultimately look like when the General Assembly gets to work on Jan. 30, but it’s a safe bet that it will be one of the first bills introduced and passed by the House and Senate. And it will almost certainly be signed into law by McCrory.