Reflection: Voter ID law

Our last posting asked our members to turn out for a hearing today, Thursday, April 10 at 6pm in the County Administrative Building Room 130 (200 College St.).  Below, the Asheville Citizen Times included a viewpoint explaining further why it is important that this mot be allowed to produce a chilling effect on voters from lower-income communities, or areas that have historically been populated by people of color.  We strive, as Unitarian Universalists, for a world with peace, liberty, and justice for all, and we do not believe that limiting access to voting will help to achieve these ends.  Therefore, we ask you to come out tonight to witness at the hearing.

A small victory, perhaps, for voting bill
N
orth Carolina’s infamous voter ID law may finally be doing some good, though not in the way most people expected. The results do not change the inherent unfairness of the law.

A little-noticed provision in the law mandated that state elections staffers check the data for North Carolina’s voters, more than 6.5 million of them, against a database covering 101 million voters in 28 states.

Elections Director Kim Strach said her staff has identified 765 registered North Carolina voters whose first names, last names, birthdates and last four digits of their Social Security numbers appear to match information for voters in another state. “Could it be voter fraud? Sure, it could be voter fraud,” she said.

“Could it be an error on the part of a precinct person choosing the wrong person’s name in the first place? It could be. We’re looking at each of these individual cases.’’

This doesn’t mean 765 people voted in two states. The15 states that checked their rolls against other states after the 2010 elections found only 11 cases that warranted prosecution.

“There may be cases of fraud, but the true scale and conspiracy involved needs to be examined more closely before those with political agendas claim they’ve proven guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Bob Hall, director of the non-profit Democracy North Carolina.

Republican legislative leaders were quick to claim the news vindicated the voter ID law. House Speaker Thom Tillis of Cornelius and Senate leader Phil Berger of Eden quickly issued a joint statement. “While we are alarmed to hear evidence of widespread voter error and fraud, we are encouraged to see the common-sense law passed to ensure voters are who they say they are is working,” they said. “These findings should put to rest ill-informed claims that problems don’t exist and help restore the integrity of our elections process.” A 2012 report from the Pew Center on the States showed voter rolls around the country are in fact a mess, with one in eight registrations inaccurate or invalid. Nearly two million dead people were still listed as active voters, and nearly three million had active registrations in multiple states.

Voting in two states would not be stopped by requiring the voter to show a photo ID at the polls. The problem with North Carolina’s solution to whatever kind of voter fraud might be out there isn’t that the new legislation might catch an illegitimate voter or two; it’s that it will throw up barriers to thousands of legitimate ones. For all the issues with the voting system, North Carolina has offered solutions to problems that don’t exist. The voter ID requirement seemed to be designed to thwart people showing up in person and impersonating another voter. That problem does not exist. We have no sympathy for people who vote fraudulently. One only has to look at elections around the world to see how trust in institutions is undermined when voter fraud is rampant. We agree with the mandate to compare voter rolls to those of other states. Frankly, it’s sad it took so long for that commonsense measure to be implemented. We find the allegations of double voting troubling. But at this point allegations are just that, allegations. It’s not unusual for someone to leave the state without canceling their voter registration. The check of rolls showed 155,692 registered North Carolina voters whose information matched voters registered in other states but who most recently registered or voted elsewhere. People who do not belong on the rolls should be taken off. People who vote fraudulently should be prosecuted. But North Carolina’s voting “solution’’ is to make it harder to vote by raising ID requirements, dropping some voting sites and curbing early voting. The aforementioned Pew report showed 51 million voters — a quarter of the eligible population — weren’t registered to vote.

That’s the problem we should be trying to fix.

Citizen-Times viewpoint

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About Elizabeth Mount

Seminarian, UU, organizer, and badass. For faith, justice, and interdependent existence.
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