What I’d Say at the Voter ID Hearing Tonight

I am not attending the public hearing on Voter ID tonight because of other obligations, but I do have something to say about it. If I were speaking tonight, this is what I would say on the matter.

Voting in NC - Photo by Brentin Mock.
Voting in NC – Photo by Brentin Mock.

Studies show that as many as 11 percent of United States citizens—mostly older, low-income, and minority citizens & including veterans who risked their lives for our freedoms—do not have government-issued photo IDs.  Furthermore, there are many requirements the state must meet to allow voters without photo IDs to obtain them.

First, photo IDs sufficient for voting must be available free of charge for all those who do not have them. States cannot limit free IDs to those who swear they are indigent.

Second, photo IDs must be readily accessible to all voters, without undue burden. At a minimum, North Carolina will likely have to expand the number of ID-issuing offices and extend their operating hours to meet this requirement.

Third, states must undertake substantial voter outreach and public education efforts to ensure that voters are apprised of the law’s requirements and the procedures for obtaining the IDs they will need to vote.*

To understand these costs, let’s consider that estimates for the state of Missouri were $6 million for the first year and an additional $4 million every year in recurring costs. The state of Indiana estimated that just the expense of providing ID’s to its 168K voters without them would cost the state $1.3 million with an additional loss in revenue of $2.2 million, and that is not a comprehensive estimate.

I find it repulsive that in the same year that the state legislators have voted to take away employment insurance benefits for 170,000 North Carolinians to save money that you are planning to add expenses for something this state simply does not need.

A voter ID law in North Carolina would directly impact over 600,000 eligible voters. Further, there are many women in this state who have a valid photo ID but because of a marriage-related name change could be disenfranchised as a result of this law.

During the past 12 years, there has been only one case of voter fraud referred to the State Board of elections that involved impersonation of another voter – the type of fraud that a photo ID is designed to stop.

This law creates an undue burden on the voter who has already proven his or her identity in order to register to vote in the first place and adds expense and complexity into a system that is not broken and is not subject to the kinds of fraud this law is allegedly designed to prevent. When you talk about voting integrity, let us talk about ensuring that all eligible voters can vote without harassment, poll taxes, and other barriers that sully our most basic right and duty as citizens. I am a voter, and I say NO to voter ID.

*Some of the data was gathered from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. This part is nearly a direct quote from one of their reports.
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