‘Lame duck’ session to address voter ID, hurricane relief

Legislators return to town, face protests

North Carolina State Legislative Building

RALEIGH — The Republican super majority in the N.C House and Senate returned to Raleigh on Tuesday with issues like voter ID and hurricane relief high on the agenda. The voter ID amendment, recently approved by voters, requires legislators to fill in some key details, and Republicans are motivated to complete this before the next legislature is sworn in.

House Rules Chairman David Lewis’ office provided press a bill draft titled, “Implementation of Voter ID Const. Amendment.” The bill would require the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement to mail registered voters twice in 2019 and twice in 2020 to educate them on the changes and on the availability of free voter ID cards.

Some elements of the draft, worked out in meetings between the chambers, include the no-cost provision of voter IDs by county boards of election and the requirement for county boards of election to maintain a “secure database containing the photographs of registered voters.” It would also require the acceptance of college IDs (including from community colleges and private colleges), expired IDs of less than one year, expired IDs from those over 65 years of age and employee IDs from state or local government entities. Voters affected by natural disaster would be able to sign an affidavit within 60 days of the disaster at their voting place and use a provisional ballot.

Progressive activist organizations, led by the Rev. William Barber, met across the street from the General Assembly before session to voice their opposition to most potential actions by the current legislature. Holding signs saying, “Lame ducks, go home!” they listened to speakers in the windy cold.

“Every legislator who believes in equal protection under the law and voting rights should vote against whatever is proposed,” said Barber to the crowd of supporters. “Anything that comes out of this session that doesn’t help flood victims is wrong.”

Later in his speech, he continued, “We will fight in the courts. We will fight in the streets. We will fight at the ballot box. And if necessary, we will return this state to civil disobedience. … No to voter suppression and voter ID, and yes to recovering from the flood. If you do anything less, we will fight. We know how to fight. We know how to win. We know how to sue. We know how to get in the street. We know how to go to jail.”

Senate Leader Phil Berger’s spokesman, Patrick Ryan, responded in a press release, saying “Voter ID is in the North Carolina Constitution because the people of this state support it overwhelmingly, and Republicans will follow through on that mandate. It’s a great irony that the liberal activist organization that planned today’s protest is asking a judge to invalidate the votes for the amendment while at the same time accusing us of voter suppression.”

Other bills likely to be considered in the coming weeks include an expansion of incentive funds meant to lure major company headquarters to the state and an elimination of many boards and commissions that Republicans describe as unconstitutional.