Republicans in the North Carolina Senate have hit the ground running
and could have the state under some of the strictest voting laws in the nation,
starting in 2016.
Senate Republicans proposed a new bill last week that would restrict the forms of identification accepted at the polls, taking effect in the 2016 elections. Only seven types of ID would be acceptable, including driver's licenses, passports, non-driver IDs and military cards.
The Senate's bill will go to the Senate Rules Committee today at 2 p.m. If passed, the bill is expected to be sent to the Senate floor and possibly enacted as early as Thursday.
The bill has raised concerns for some Senate Democrats, who believe the restrictions will affect many voters to the point they may not cast votes due to not fitting the criteria. Some of the forms of identification that would not be permissible under the bill would include local government, private employers and law enforcement agencies.
"The bill the Senate has is a less restrictive version than what has been proposed before, but I still think that it prohibits and prevents voting," Sen. Earline Parmon, D-Forsyth, said. "I feel like we should ensure that all citizens can meet the requirements. My concerns are for senior citizens who can't get a birth certificate to vote. While I think it's an improved measure, it's a bad policy when it comes to constitutional rights for citizens in North Carolina."
Perhaps the biggest issue is the elimination of college IDs from UNC system colleges and state community colleges. Sen. Louis Pate, R-Wayne, said he wanted to assure every vote cast is honest and wanted to prevent voter fraud at the polls.
"I've had instances in my career where people tried to vote and were told they had already voted," Pate said. "I feel like a voter ID would help alleviate the stress and give voters confidence."
Pate also said college students would have to get some kind of identification from the DMV, but there would be reminders and options to ensure everyone could vote.
"There will be a program for citizens who cannot pay for the cards," Pate said. "Also, when people vote, they will be handed papers when the law goes into effect. The citizens will be notified along the way."
Sen. Don Davis, D-Greene, still has concerns about how the public may react to the proposal.
"I'm not quite certain how much confidence this will provide to the public," Davis said. "I'm concerned, whether intended or not, it could create hurdles for residents who are just trying to cast their votes. Students in college under the proposal would have a challenge in casting their votes. Even county and city employees wouldn't have acceptable IDs.
"Sometimes, when you're trying to do something good, there may be unintended consequences. While I understand there is interest to have some form of ID, I still question how much confidence voters would have in this plan."
Junious Smith III can be reached at 252-559-1077 and Junious.Smith@Kinston.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JuniousSmithIII.
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