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The Party Line is dedicated to examining regional issues and policies through the figures who give shape to them. These are critical, complex, and even downright confusing times we live in. There’s a lot to navigate nationally and in the Carolinas; whether it’s elections, debates on gay marriage, public school closings, or tax incentives for economic development. The Party Line’s goal is to offer a provocative, intelligent look at the issues and players behind the action; a view that ultimately offers the necessary insight for Carolina voters to hold public servants more accountable.

GOP Lawmakers Should Consider Voter ID Compromise

Michael Bitzer
Michael Bitzer

With the GOP-led NC General Assembly beginning a “deliberative” consideration of requiring photo identification when voting, the heated rhetoric on both sides has only inflamed the passions of both supporters and opponents to Voter ID laws.

Anecdotal examples of people claiming to have voted multiple times are charged by one side, while the other side decrying the proposed legislation with charges of “we will fight them in the streets.”

But in the grand scheme of American governance, a potential compromise has emerged that is worthy of serious consideration by both sides of the debate.

Yes, Republicans have such overwhelming legislative numbers and a willing chief executive that they can craft legislation to fit whatever they desire. But in the aggrandizement of their power, they would do well to show the state their willingness to incorporate what might be sensible ideas from the minority Democrats. 

An interesting proposal has come from four Cape Fear region Democrats that seems to create a compromise between the two warring sides of this issue.  First, it requires the presentation of some form of photographic identification (be it a drivers license, US document such as a passport or military identification card, or student identification card by an accredited higher education institution), thus addressing the concerns of pro-photo ID supporters.

The second, and more technologically advanced notion, addresses the opposition’s concerns about those voters who don’t have a photo-ID card (which, according to an analysis by the State Board of Elections last year said the number could be as high as 613,000). 

The bill would allow those voters lacking a photo ID to cast their ballots when they have their picture taken by an election official and “sign a voter photo affidavit” attesting to their identification.  Falsifying this photo affidavit would be subject to a felony charge.

In this age of Skype and Google+ hangouts, most all computers either have a built-in camera or a plug-in camera that can be purchased fairly easily (recognizing that many county board of elections are on tight budgets). 

If voter lacks the one of the proper photo IDs, this approach may alleviate the concerns that photo ID proponents have by documenting and accounting for the voter, while still allowing the voter to cast their ballot, alleviating the concerns of those who see photo ID as regressive and discriminatory.

A recent Elon University poll found an overwhelming 72% support by North Carolinians support requiring some form of photographic identification in casting a ballot: as expected, 93% of self-identified Republicans support the measure, with 74% of independents and even a majority—52%—of Democrats supporting photo ID.

Ensuring the sanctity of votes cast is something that most all Americans can agree with, but with most policy issues, the devil is in the details as to how to go about doing so.  When the best policies are enacted, typically they are done by compromises that bring the best ideas of both sides to address the issue. 

And while some may dispute whether voter fraud (defined in many different ways) is a solution in search of a problem, the push towards photo ID will happen: the ultimate legislative question is, can it be a push with both political sides behind it?