Embarrassed by the election fraud investigation making national news, the state House added to its voter ID bill a goal for people who request absentee ballots to include some form of identification.
“This situation we’re all reading about is an embarrassment and an impediment to the integrity of our entire election system,” said Rep. David Lewis, the Harnett County Republican shepherding the voter ID bill through the House. The bill is “an important first step” that provides for an improved system of absentee voting, he said.
The State Board of Elections would be responsible for writing the rule for absentee ballot IDs under the provision added to the bill Wednesday.
An investigation into election fraud in Bladen and Robeson counties that centered on absentee mail-in ballots has delayed the certification of Republican Mark Harris’ election in the 9th Congressional District.
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House Republicans, as recently as this summer, had rejected proposals to require IDs from people who vote by mail.
The sections on absentee IDs are part of a larger bill focused on requiring people who vote in person to show photo identification. The House passed it 67-40, largely along party lines. Two Democrats, Duane Hall of Raleigh and Ken Goodman of Rockingham, voted for it and Republican Rep. Jonathan Jordan of Jefferson voted against it.
The bill now goes back to the Senate, which passed its own version last week.
Republicans have wanted voter ID for years. House Speaker Tim Moore, in rare comments during the floor debate, said he’d been working on voter ID since 2003. The state passed a voter ID bill in 2013 that was thrown out by federal judges in 2016. This year, Republicans put voter ID on the ballot as a constitutional amendment. It passed with about 55 percent of the vote.
Rep. Darren Jackson, the House Democratic leader, said Republicans focused on creating obstacles to in-person voting, where documented fraud is rare, while ignoring glaring problems with absentee voting.
“Now, we have a congressional race tainted because of that,” said Jackson, a Wake Democrat. “I’m sure it is embarrassing to the majority party that an election may have been stolen by their operatives.”
Democrats argued that the ID requirement would create obstacles for legitimate voters.
An audit of 4.8 million votes cast in the 2016 general election found one case of voter impersonation that could have been caught with voter ID.
Rep. Mickey Michaux, a Durham Democrat, said he spent his life fighting for voting rights. If the law passes, he said, he will spend the rest of his life fighting for people to get IDs “so we can come back and kick you out.”
“If we have to go back to the streets again to get an impediment-free right to vote, I’ll spend the rest of my life doing it,” Michaux said. At 88, Michaux is retiring this year after 44 years in the legislature.
Several Republicans said the bill was too lenient, and they wanted to prohibit students from being able to use college IDs to vote.
Rep. Michael Speciale, a New Bern Republican, invited other House members to his desk to look at his fake Wake Tech ID.
“These cards are just too easy to get,” Speciale said.
Jordan, the only Republican to vote against the bill, said he was doing it because it would make too many kinds of IDs acceptable for voting.
Driver licenses, passports, military and veteran IDs, tribal enrollment cards, college IDs, state ID cards issued to non-drivers, state and municipal employee IDs, and a new type of ID issued by local boards of election could be used.
Jordan wanted to limit acceptable IDs to those issued by the DMV, passports, and military IDs.
“I cannot vote for it and pretend we now have voting security and integrity,” Jordan said.