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With Constitutional Amendment, GOP Tries Again On Voter ID

There are six constitutional amendments on the Nov. 6 ballot, including one that would make a photo ID a requirement to vote in North Carolina midterm elections.

Five years ago, North Carolina passed a strict photo ID requirement. But it was used only twice — in the primaries in March and June 2016.

Then a federal court struck it down that July, saying it targeted minority voters with "surgical precision."

North Carolina is now one of 16 states that doesn't require voters to show any document before they vote. Voters just have to state their name, address and sign the poll book.

But state Republicans are trying again to require photo ID at the polls, this time in a proposed constitutional amendment that will be on the Nov. 6 ballot. It's one of six amendments on the ballot, and is one of the most controversial.

“If you are voter and you cast a proper ballot, then I think it’s only fair that it not be cancelled by somebody who is ineligible to vote and crossing out your ballot," said Robin Hayes, the chair of the North Carolina Republican Party.

After the 2013 voter ID was voided, the GOP hopes that enshrining photo ID in the constitution will make it harder for a court to overturn it. The amendment would require a photo ID, but the General Assembly would write the rules.

Legislators could push for what's considered to be a “strict” photo ID requirement, similar to Georgia’s requirement. Georgia requires a driver’s license, passport, U.S. military ID card or a state-issued ID card. That’s similar to what North Carolina had before a federal court struck down its law.

Another option is a less strict photo ID requirement, like Florida's. Florida lets voters use things like student IDs, a debit card, a credit card or a neighborhood association ID.

The amendment comes a little more than a year after the state Board of Elections released an audit of the 2016 election, raising questions as to whether voter fraud is a problem. The audit found 508 votes that shouldn't have been cast, out of roughly 4.8 million votes.

Most of those 408 votes were cast by felons and a photo ID requirement would not have stopped them.

There were two cases of voter impersonation, which would could have been prevented with photo ID.

Hayes says photo ID would have stopped 41 non-citizens from voting in that election, and that’s possible.
If you are a non-citizen, a North Carolina driver's license says that on the back.

The Democratic Party opposes all of these amendments, and has a slogan: "Nix All Six."

Last week, nearly 40 elected officials in the Triangle area signed a letter opposing the amendments. They joined with the non-partisan group Common Cause in opposing them, and said the Photo ID amendment would have a "devastating" impact.

While some elected officials in the Triangle are coming out against the amendments, the Charlotte City Council has not taken a formal position.

"I don’t think the council will take a position," Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles said. "We are all going to go out in a way, and I believe that we are all advocates for our position individually, but the council will not take a position."

During a voter registration rally on Tryon Street last week, Lyles also said that she's personally opposed to the photo ID requirement.

"I am very concerned about the idea of voter ID and the suppression of the vote," Lyles said. "We are out here today trying to encourage people to vote, and to get registered. When we put hurdles in the front of them that makes it even more difficult."

Voters will see five other amendments on the November ballot.

Two amendments would shift power from the governor to the General Assembly when filling judicial vacancies and making appointments to the Board of Elections.

One amendment would say in the constitution that the “right of the people to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife is a valued part of the state's heritage and shall be forever preserved for the public good.” It passed with bi-partisan support, but some Democrats have complained it’s unnecessary.

The amendment is meant to ensure hunting and fishing will always be protected in the state, but the amendment says those rights are still subject to laws from the General Assembly. That means people would still need a fishing license.

The Crime Victims Amendment, known as "Marsy’s Law for North Carolina," would attempt expand victim's rights. Named for a California woman killed by a former boyfriend 35 years ago, the amendment would make victims “co-equals” with perpetrators. It would require victims to be alerted when perpetrators are let out of jail and of all court proceedings.

There also is an amendment that would lower the state income tax cap. The cap is now 10 percent, and the amendment would bring that down to 7 percent. But this won’t give people a tax cut today, since the state income tax is a little under 5.5 percent.

For a break-down of the key races and issues impacting Mecklenburg County voters, read WFAE's 2018 Midterm Election Guide