The following is an open letter from Representative David Lewis, Chairman of the Committee on Rules, Calendar, and Operations of the House:
Beginning in 2016, an individual who wishes to cast their ballot on election day must present a North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles Photo ID, a U.S. Passport, U.S. Military ID, U.S. Veteran’s Administration Card or a Tribal ID Card (all with pictures). This is the current law as it stands.
This is a good system that ensures voters are who they claim to be.
However, there is no such thing as a perfect system.
As one who has fought to pass voter ID laws for over a decade, I have always maintained that Republicans want all citizens to be able to exercise their Constitutional rights. This includes equal and open access to an elections system that operates as openly and fairly as possible.
I have said many times that we want everyone who is eligible to vote, to vote one time, and that those votes will cumulatively determine who wins and who loses elections.
There has been considerable angst, in the last few days, over claims we have weakened our voter ID laws.
I reject that claim.
Let me start with an example of the kind of inevitable situation that will almost certainly arise in 2016 and in every election thereafter.
Let’s say loyal voter David Lewis takes his family to lunch at the Western Steer in Dunn on Sunday — before the Tuesday, November 8, 2016 General Election. Somehow between listening to his kids argue over how many trips to the dessert bar they can make and cleaning up the unavoidable spilled drink or two, he loses his wallet.
David’s wallet contains his North Carolina Driver’s License.
David does not have a U.S. Passport or any other federally issued ID.
Because the only ID David has is lost, he would not be able to vote on Tuesday — as he’s done every year since turning 18. It is reasonable that some provision be made so that David can exercise his right to vote.
Under that adjustment to the voter ID statute passed on Thursday June 18, David would be able to go to the polling site and do the following:
- Sign, under penalty of perjury, an affidavit that states his full name, correct home address, last four of his Social Security number AND his birthday.
- He would then be able to mark his selections ON A PROVISIONAL BALLOT.
- The PROVISIONAL BALLOT would be sealed in an envelope with the signed affidavit and sent to the County Board of Elections.
- The County Board would review that everything David had written on the affidavit was correct and apply largely the same verification procedures used when reviewing an Absentee Ballot.
- Only after this verification process had taken place, would David’s ballot be counted.
- Also, another citizen could CHALLENGE David’s ballot until the Election Canvas.
Let me give you another example.
Let’s say David’s birthday happens to fall on the Saturday before the Tuesday election. His ID would have been “current” during the early voting time. However, it’s only after he shows up at the polls on Tuesday that he learns his license has expired. Under current law, David would not get to vote.
Imagine that for a moment. He has a North Carolina Driver’s License that has expired a few days before. He’s been busy and not really thinking about it. He would not be able to vote.
Is it not reasonable that the right to vote is more important than simply forgetting to renew his license?
Let me share with you just one more example. Despite the two-year roll out and on-going education on ID requirements for 2016, all the outreach and help offered to get an ID to those that need one, while even bearing the cost to provide it free, it is possible a registered voter will fall through the cracks and simply not have one.
Turning away a valid voter at the poll is unjust. Allowing voters to game the system is unjust. We’ve tried to strike a balance — improve the real and perceived integrity of the system while NOT stopping valid, registered voters from voting.
This reasonable impediment accommodation strikes the right balance.
It is important to just remember these quick points:
- Because NC has a very high standard of what photo IDs we will accept (NCDMV Issued or Federal passport, military photo ID) and we do not accept some forms of ID accepted in other states (such as college IDs), we provided a fail-safe – just in case – someone gets to the Polling location and legitimately does not have their ID.
- The State Board, DMV, political parties, and other groups are working hard to make sure North Carolinians get their required ID. But, just in case, an individual can present himself/herself at the polling site, provide his/her name AND address AND last four digits of his/her social AND birthdate AND sign under penalty of perjury that they are who they say they are, the individual would be allowed to complete a provisional ballot. This ballot must then be sent to the County Board of Elections. The County Board of Elections will then verify the ballot using the same system it uses to handle absentee ballots.
- I would argue that this failsafe process creates the most foolproof way to prevent voter fraud because individuals must show up to a polling place and claim to be who they say they are, provide the correct identifying information and STILL have the County Board of Elections verify it all BEFORE the provisional ballot can be counted.
- And, the State Board will, after the election, follow up with those people and help them get an ID if needed.
Please know South Carolina also has a reasonable impediment statute and has had it the entire time it has required a photo ID to vote. In 2014, 1.1 million South Carolinians voted, and only 119 used this procedure. That is 1 out of every 10,000 votes cast.
I’ll be happy to answer questions.
Rep. David Lewis
2301 Legislative Office Building
Raleigh, NC 27601-1096