Common sense reforms strengthen the integrity of state’s elections

Aug. 13, 2013 @ 08:07 AM

The common sense, election reforms I just signed into law will protect the integrity of one of the most precious rights guaranteed in our state constitution, the right to vote.

Voter photo identification is the central element of these reforms. Ensuring those casting ballots are who they say they are is fundamental to a fair election. In fact, nearly every democracy in the developed world requires photo ID at the polls. This basic safeguard is why North Carolinians in poll after poll after poll have expressed overwhelming support for voter photo identification.

The need for photo-ID has been questioned by those who say voter fraud is not a problem in North Carolina. However, without the higher level of identification a photograph provides, is it possible to know? Even if the instances of misidentified people casting votes are low, that shouldn’t prevent us from putting this non-burdensome safeguard in place. Just because you haven’t been robbed doesn’t mean you shouldn’t lock your doors at night or when you’re away from home.

The law provides for a number of acceptable forms of photo identification. They include a driver’s license, military ID and passport. If a person doesn’t have a state-issued photo-ID, they can obtain one, at no cost to them, at a nearby Department of Motor Vehicle office.  This photo-ID will produce benefits beyond the voting booth. It will also allow the recipient to engage in a number of mainstream activities that require a photo ID, such as conducting financial transactions, traveling, applying for government benefits or buying Sudafed at the local drug store.

County boards of elections will conduct voter  education campaigns to ensure as many people as possible are informed of the photo requirement in time for the 2016 elections, the year voter photo-ID will be implemented. Even then, should a voter show up at the polls without photo identification, they can still cast a provisional vote that will be counted once they return with a picture-ID. 

Some have called photo-ID requirements burdensome. Yet, they are similar to the recommendations made by a bipartisan Commission on Federal Election Reform co-chaired by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III. Quoting from their report (“Building Confidence in the U.S. Elections”), “The electoral system cannot inspire public confidence if no safeguards exist to deter or detect fraud or to confirm the identity of voters. Photo IDs currently are needed to board a plane, enter federal buildings, and cash a check. Voting is equally important.”

Voting is more important than cashing a check, it’s vital to our democratic process, which is why the law I signed has other significant protections.  

The accuracy of voter registration rolls has grown more important as more people move into North Carolina. This law will now require the State Board of Elections to cross-check voter rolls with those in other states through the national Election Registration Information Center and other methods. Registration integrity is also why North Carolina will join the majority of states (37) that will not allow a person to register and vote on the same day. Pre-registration of people too young to vote is another practice that will end. North Carolina will also join 35 other states and the District of Columbia that require voters to cast a ballot for a candidate, and not for a political party.

These and other reforms will strengthen the integrity of North Carolina’s election process. Protecting the sanctity of every vote cast is among the most important duties I have as governor and is why I signed these protections into law.

Pat McCrory is governor of North Carolina.