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The articles from Inside Politics With Steve Harrison appear first in his weekly newsletter, which takes a deeper look at local politics, including the latest news on the Charlotte City Council, what's happening with Mecklenburg County's Board of Commissioners, the North Carolina General Assembly and much more.

Cheri Beasley Supports Manchin Voter ID Proposal; Jeff Jackson Campaign Silent

Mark Buckawicki
Wikimedia Commons

West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin opposes his party’s sweeping voting rights bill known as the For The People Act, but he’s released a three-page memo of election changes he supports.

One of the most unusual proposals: Requiring voter ID.

Manchin’s memo is not detailed, but he writes that he wants voter ID and not photo ID. He said that a utility bill could be used as identification.

Progressives have long said voter ID laws are racist, but there’s been a sea change as prominent Democrats like Stacey Abrams have said they are OK with Manchin’s voter ID idea.

WFAE reached out to North Carolina Democrats running for Senate and asked specifically about the Manchin idea on voter ID. Former N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley said in a statement that she’s OK with the Manchin proposal.

“Cheri would have voted to allow debate on the For the People Act and also supports the suggested compromise that would ensure people have access to the ballot box and their right to vote is protected,” said campaign spokesperson Dory MacMillan.

Former North Carolina Chief Justice Cheri Beasley will run as a Democrat in the 2022 U.S. Senate race.
Cheri Beasley
Former North Carolina Chief Justice Cheri Beasley will run as a Democrat in the 2022 U.S. Senate race.

Earlier in the week, Beasley issued a statement on the Senate filibustering the For The People Act: “The right to vote is fundamental and when it’s under attack, we expect Congress to defend it. It’s disgraceful that Republicans in Washington – including both of North Carolina’s senators — put partisanship over core principles of our democracy.”

State Sen. Jeff Jackson of Mecklenburg County is considered the other top-tier candidate.

WFAE asked Jackson and his campaign starting Tuesday whether he would support voter ID. After sending several messages by email, text and Twitter, we received no response.

Jackson’s Twitter feed criticizes Manchin for refusing to end the filibuster and not supporting the For the People Act.

Jackson’s biggest voting-rights priority appears to be ending gerrymandering. But he also consistently criticized voter ID, such as this 2016 tweet in which he said his followers should “share this article with friends who still don’t think voter ID had anything to do with racial politics.”

That Washington Post story was about the court fight over the North Carolina GOP’s first attempt last decade at enacting photo ID. That law was overturned in federal court, where a three-judge panel said that first photo ID law targeted “African Americans with almost surgical precision.”

After voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2018 requiring photo ID, GOP lawmakers passed implementing legislation while they still had legislative super-majorities in late November of that year. Though that law was considered less restrictive than the first photo ID requirement, most Democratic state senators — including Jackson — voted against it.

Former state Sen. Erica Smith lost to Cal Cunningham in the 2020 Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. She’s running again and may be the most liberal candidate in the field.

As for Manchin’s proposal on voter ID, she’s not there yet. Her campaign released a statement that said:

"While I'm encouraged by Sen. Manchin moving towards full support of the much-needed voting-rights legislation, I'm concerned that even his well-intentioned voter ID proposal could lead to the disenfranchisement of Black and brown voters, particularly in the South where there is a long legacy of laws being bent and manipulated to keep people who look like me from casting a ballot.”

She added that "Sen. Manchin has come a long way during these negotiations and I believe that the more we keep up the pressure, the better and more effective this legislation will ultimately be. What's not an option is failure to pass legislation of any sort, allowing a new wave of Jim Crow voter suppression bills to become law across the south."

Beaufort Mayor Rett Newton, a retired Air Force colonel, is also running.

He said he supports the For the People Act, and also the Manchin proposal.

“The reality is in politics it’s about compromise,” he said. “I like the compromise he has proposed. Certainly, the fact that Stacey Abrams is supporting it is a good sign. So, I don’t think is the one we want to fall on our sword over.”

He added that Manchin’s voter ID proposal is less stringent than photo ID.

“I like the fact that he has proposed letting people use things like utility bills,” he said. “I don’t have any heartburn with that at all.”

WFAE couldn’t reach Richard Watkins of Durham, who is also running.

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Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.