Voter ID Law Enacted After North Carolina House Overrides Governor's Veto

by | December 21, 2018 AT 7:50 AM

By Lynn Bonner

North Carolina voters will be asked to show photo identification when they go to the polls next year, barring intervention by a court.

The Republican-led Legislature took the final step to shrug off Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's veto of its photo ID bill, with the House voting 72-40 Wednesday to override after a long debate that touched on the state's history of voter suppression.

The state Senate took its override vote Tuesday.

Minutes after the House vote, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice announced that a lawsuit challenging the voter ID law had been filed in Wake County Superior Court.

The Rev. T. Anthony Spearman, president of the North Carolina NAACP, said the organization would announce a lawsuit Thursday.

Voter ID has been a long-time goal for Republicans. A voter ID requirement that passed as part of a 2013 bill was thrown out by federal courts in 2016. The 2013 voter ID law was part of a larger elections law that a panel of federal judges said "targeted African-Americans with almost surgical precision."

Republicans steered a photo voter ID question onto the November ballot as a constitutional amendment, and 55 percent of voters approved it.

Lawmakers followed up with a bill to implement the amendment. Cooper vetoed the bill last week. During a news conference Tuesday, he said the Legislature should have waited until next session to talk about voter ID. The Legislature will have more Democrats next year, and Republicans will no longer have veto-proof majorities in the House and Senate.

The House vote followed a heated debate in which Republicans criticized Cooper for his veto and Democrats recounted the state's history of racism, from slavery to the present.

State Rep. David Lewis, a Harnett County Republican, said Cooper insulted voters who approved photo ID. Lewis said he worked hard to make it easy for voters to comply with a new law.

The law counts as acceptable IDs driver licenses, passports, military and veteran IDs, tribal enrollment cards, college IDs, state ID cards issued to nondrivers, state and municipal employee IDs, and a new type of ID issued by local boards of election.

People who don't have the required ID would be able to cast provisional ballots after signing an affidavit at the polls explaining why they do not have one.

Rep. Jimmy Dixon, a Duplin County Republican, said Cooper had shown "contempt for the voters of North Carolina," and told Cooper "you should hang your head in shame."

State Rep. Darren Jackson, the House Democratic leader, said voter ID had to be viewed in light of "North Carolina's tragic history of civil and voting rights," and Rep. Mickey Michaux, a Durham Democrat, recalled that a literacy test, traditionally used to prevent African-Americans from voting, is still in the state constitution. Federal law makes the literacy test unenforceable.

"You don't have a right to take away my right or anybody else's right because they can't supply you with a photo ID," Michaux said. "It looks like history is going to repeat itself."

Rocky Mount Republican state Rep. Jeff Collins said Democrats were responsible for slavery and Jim Crow.

"The Republicans are the party of emancipation," Collins said. "I get tired of getting blamed for things the Democrats have done."

State Rep. Grier Martin, a Raleigh Democrat, said that over history, "the racists left the Democratic Party and went to the party where they could oppose African-Americans voting."

When Collins asked who Martin was talking about, Martin replied, "We've got several here."

(c)2018 The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)