Our View: Picture this. Voter ID improves process

Apr. 11, 2013 @ 01:51 AM

You may have been asked, “Is voter fraud rampant across North Carolina?”
But that is not the question at the heart of the proposal to require voters to show photo IDs when they go to the polls at election time.
“Does requiring a voter photo ID increase confidence in the election process?” Now that is the question at the center of this debate.
Discussions are to continue next week in a state  House committee on the voter photo ID bill — House Bill 589. Between now and then, we’ll likely read of rallies protesting the bill and other measures proposing state election law changes. There probably will be some shows of support for the voter photo ID bill, too.
In other words, the political rhetoric, which at times has been pretty edgy, will continue — and probably, too, the inflammatory and accusatory language we have heard some express. That’s disappointing.
Instead of the hurling of invectives, the allusions to segregation-era poll taxes and the speculation about voting fraud, we’d like to see the debate focus on that one question: “Does requiring a voter photo ID increase confidence in the election process?”
It does — just as it did a few years ago when the requirement began for you to sign your name when you voted. Requiring a voter to show a photo ID simply is an extension of that requirement. It raises the security and integrity of the election process.
However, some have raised valid concerns about the photo ID requirement — not everyone has one, for instance. But under the bill being discussed, there are 10 forms of identification that are acceptable, and not all of them involve photos. There’s also an exception for someone objecting to having a photo because of religious reasons. And even then, if a potential voter has none of the 10 forms of ID at the poll, he or she still can cast a provisional ballot that can be counted once that person presents verifiable identification.
As part of the effort to pass the photo ID bill, perhaps Republican leaders should drop other proposed voting law changes such as reducing early voting sites and days. As seen last November, early voting has become a major — very popular — part of this state’s and the nation’s election process. To restrict early voting now would be counterproductive to improving the election process.
The voter photo ID legislation also would set up an advisory board to the State Board of Elections to help voters with information and compliance with identification requirements. That advisory board could hire up to 14 staff members, but that staff would be temporary. Their jobs would end Dec. 31, 2016. That’s a reasonable attempt to help implement the requirements, but also not let them spawn some new, long-term bureaucratic office.
Improving the election process and the electorate’s confidence in it is what the proposal for voter photo IDs involves. That’s why House Bill 589 should move on through the Legislature and onto Gov. McCrory’s desk for his signature into law.