NC Lawmakers Agree to Allow Exceptions to State’s Controversial Voter-ID Requirement

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Voters enter Cotswold School in Charlotte, N.C., Nov. 4, 2014.
Davis Turner/Getty Images

North Carolina lawmakers passed legislation June 18 that would allow voters without photo identification to cast provisional ballots, the News & Observer reports. The General Assembly sent the measure to Gov. Pat McCrory for his signature.

The proposed change would allow voters to declare a “reasonable impediment” to explain not having a photo ID. It establishes eight possible reasons, such as not having a birth certificate or lacking transportation to get an ID.

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This change comes nearly two weeks before a federal trial on the constitutionality of the state’s voter-ID rule and other provisions in a controversial 2013 election law. A federal court in Winston-Salem, N.C., is scheduled to hear arguments on the law on July 5. The sweeping overhaul is set to take effect in 2016. The News & Observer reports that it’s unclear how the new measure would affect that case.

Advocates of strict voter-ID requirements, which have swept through the South, say they’re necessary to prevent voter fraud. But opponents argue that it’s a ruse to suppress voter participation among minorities, the poor and the young—traditional Democratic voters.

The News & Observer says that yesterday’s rule change drew “quick criticism” from conservatives, while opponents were “lukewarm.”

The Rev. William J. Barber II, head of the state NAACP, told the News & Observer that “the bill is still bad and racially disparate,” adding, “These legislators try to distract us from the full bill implications by minimally fixing a leaky faucet but keeping the whole foundations of the bill intact.”

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Barber has led a number of demonstrations against the 2013 election law through his “Moral Monday” movement. On June 17, authorities arrested Barber and nine other demonstrators at the state’s General Assembly, the News & Observer reports.

“The pressure of protest and legal action are exposing their actions and forcing them to adjust,” he told the News & Observer on Thursday, after lawmakers approved changes to the state’s voter-ID rules. “If they were truly interested in change and the tenets of our democracy, they would repeal the entire bill.”

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Read more at the News & Observer here and here.

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