To the Editor:
The voter suppression monster has reared its ugly head again in Raleigh. Although details are not known yet, any move to require voter ID is a thinly-veiled attempt to restrict the voting rights of certain groups for partisan reasons — the young, elderly, disabled, poor, and people of color. A Republican legislator bragged about the use of voter ID to assure a Republican victory in Pennsylvania before the last election.
I am opposed to the voter ID requirement for the following reasons:
• It is unnecessary. According to the state Board of Elections, only one voter fraud case in the last 10 years involved voter impersonation, the problem which would be addressed by requiring a photo ID. That’s only one out of the state’s more than 6 million registered voters. Identity is already verified at the polls during each election by the voter’s signature. Voter fraud is already a felony.
• It will be expensive. A study by the Institute for Southern Studies in 2011 estimated the cost of implementation at around $20 million. To avoid the legal challenge of a poll tax, IDs must be free for the voter; cost must be picked up by the state. In addition, funds will be required for extensive voter education, training of local Board of Election staffs, etc. During these hard times, with funding for public education and safety nets for our most vulnerable citizens slashed, spending money on a non-problem is unconscionable.
• It will disenfranchise voters. The right to vote is the cornerstone of our democra-cy. Voting should be easy and convenient in order to encourage more voter participation in the election process. According to the State Board of Elections, more than 500,000 active registered voters do not have a state-issued photo ID. Assuming the state picks up the costs of birth certificates and ID, travel to the DMV for an ID would be burdensome for many due to disability, age, illness, and transportation issues. If the state does not pick up costs, the requirement for a photo ID would be equivalent to a poll tax many could not afford.
Credit should be given to the Raleigh Republicans for holding public hearings on this subject. This is in contrast of the rush to implement other recent legislation without public input, which includes refusal of Medicaid expansion, preventing Medicaid coverage for 500,000 North Carolina citizens, and preventing the creation of 23,000 new jobs.
I am afraid that the voter ID requirement is only the start of a program to support partisan manipulation of the election process. I fear that bills to cut back early voting and end same day registration will follow.