RALEIGH, N.C. — Presenting photo identification before being able to vote in North Carolina moved a step closer to reality Wednesday when the House approved a Republican-backed proposal.
House Bill 589 passed on an 81-36 vote and now moves to the Senate.
"Our system of government depends on open and honest elections," said Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett. "Having people prove they are who they say they are makes sense."
The bill, dubbed the Voter Information Verification Act, or VIVA, would require IDs with every election held after January 2016. It would allow people to present various state-issued IDs, such as public university IDs and state employee IDs, but private university IDs would not qualify.
A Democrat attempt to amend the bill to allow private school IDs failed mostly on a party-line vote, as did a series of other amendments that would have allowed people without a photo ID more leeway to cast a ballot.
One proposed amendment would have allowed people to cast provisional ballots and provide other identifying information for local elections officials to confirm their identities and count their votes during a canvass. Another would have allowed poll workers who personally know any voter to verify their identity.
"Voting is a right, but it's also a responsibility to do it intelligently," said Rep. Ruth Samuelson, R-Mecklenburg, who noted that people will have more than two years to get an ID before it's required in an election.
Republican sponsors did back amendments that allow tribal cards to be used as official IDs – they had struck the tribal cards from the list a week ago – and exempt people from the ID requirement following the declaration of a natural disaster.
Rep. Darren Jackson, D-Wake, tried to have the legislation apply the same ID standards to mail-in absentee voting, saying it's far easier to cast a fraudulent vote by mail than in person.
Under the bill, absentee voters would have to provide a driver's license number, the final four digits of a Social Security number or other federally-approved identification documents, such as a copy of a utility bill, with their mail-in ballot.
"You're creating two classes of voters," Jackson said, shortly before his proposal was soundly defeated.