Hearings begin on voter ID

Mar. 12, 2013 @ 05:29 AM

Despite the fact there is no actual legislation drafted, the process of establishing a voter ID law begins today.

This afternoon the General Assembly will hold its first public hearing on voter identification — requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls — at the Legislative Office Building in Raleigh.

Last week House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, announced a tentative schedule for possibly developing a voter identification bill. That schedule is meant to include committee meetings and testimony before a bill is filed. Today's public hearing is the first part of the process.

The question prevailing among members of the General Assembly is whether the state needs a voter ID requirement when voting.

"An ID is a way to be more assured that the person in front of you is who they say they are," said state Rep. Mike Hager, R-Rutherford. "It is the only way to determine if that person is voting in the right precinct or even in the right state."

However those on the other side of the aisle said that this kind of legislation has merit in North Carolina.

"I don't think it's necessary," said state Rep. Susan Fisher, D-Buncombe. "We have a very long history of a reliable voting history that has yielded very few fraudulent voting.

"This seems more like a solution looking for a problem."

It is the possibility of fraud that has been a stirring stick for similar legislation in other states.

"I think the issue of voter fraud is something that we don't know about," Hager, who also serves as the House Majority Whip, said. "There is really no way to measure that."

Fisher countered that this kind of legislation would be necessary if there were widespread cases of fraud. She said that, in the 2010 election, less than four percent of ballots cast drew a question from election officials.

She added that a voter identification measure would do more to disenfranchise voters in North Carolina.

"The populations that it affects the most is elderly women, young people and minority voters. What is the issue here? That would be my question," Fisher said.

Another factor to be sorted out is who will pay for the issuance of photo identification to voters that do not have a military ID or drivers' license.

Hager said that there are no cost projections for the state to provide such an identification.

"There are a lot of unanswered questions here," Fisher said. "When you are looking at the recession and the shortfalls that it has caused in budgets around the state, we have to ask if this is the place where we want to spend more money?"