North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law the toughest voter ID rules in the country on Monday, and shrunk the number of days allowed for early voting. McCrory says the new law is "common-sense." But the numbers show the law will have, as Reid Wilson explained for National Journal, "undeniable political ramifications." Democrats tend to vote early. Republicans tend to vote absentee. The law makes big changes to in-person voting while leaving rules for absentee ballots mostly the same.
Update: The North Carolina NAACP and the ACLU have each filed lawsuits challenging the law as racially discriminatory under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The ACLU wrote in a statement Monday, "the suit specifically targets provisions of the law that eliminate a week of early voting, end same-day registration, and prohibit 'out-of-precinct' voting."
A third suit is expected to be filed Tuesday morning, also by the ACLU, challenging the voter ID portion of the law. According to The Nation, the plaintiffs in this third suit will be "college students who will not be able to vote in North Carolina because they have out of state driver’s licenses and their student IDs will not be accepted, and elderly residents of the state who were not born in North Carolina and will have to pay to get a birth certificate to validate their identity."
Original post: Some numbers explain the political ramifications. In North Carolina, Reid noted, 1.2 million Democrats voted early, while only 800,000 Republicans did. By contrast, blacks cast only 8.7 percent of absentee ballots, while whites cast 86.4 percent of them. (Blacks are 22 percent of the North Carolina population; whites are 71.9 percent.)
The 49-page law requires that all voters have a government-issued photo ID — that means college IDs don't count. Currently it's estimated that there are between 203,352 and 318,643 registered voters in the state without a state-issued ID (like a driver's license). It is not known how many of those voters have another acceptable form of ID. The law also shortens the early voting period from 17 to 10 days. Same-day voter registration will be eliminated, along with early registration for 16 and 17-year-old voters who will be 18 on Election Day.
Meanwhile, there are smaller changes to the rules governing mail-in ballots. As WRAL explains, the new rules require that absentee voters list the number from some form of ID. But that doesn't have to be a photo ID — the last four digits of a Social Security number counts, as would a driver's license number or a special ID card number. And absentee voters can get out of that requirement, too. WRAL reports, "If the voter doesn't have any of those numbers, he or she may include documents such as bank statements, pay stubs or utility bills with the request" for an absentee ballot. A failed amendment to the bill that would have allowed people without photo ID to vote in person if they met the requirements for an absentee ballot.
Similar laws have been passed in Republican-controlled legislatures. North Carolina's has received backlash because it's the most extensive in recent years. The Justice Department indicated it will challenge the law, along with a new voter ID law in Texas.
Opponents of the law point out that these measures address a problem that may not be there — there is little evidence of voter fraud. Supporters claim that the new measures will give voters confidence in the system, eventually increasing turnout. Reactions on Twitter range from "all states should do this!" to "SMH" (shaking my head).
McCrory said in a statement on Monday, “I am proud to sign this legislation into law. Common practices like boarding an airplane and purchasing Sudafed require photo ID, and we should expect nothing less for the protection of our right to vote.” Some might point out that boarding an airplane and purchasing cold medicine aren't fundamental constitutional rights.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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