Voter ID is dead….or is it?

| May 19, 2017

by Tom Campbell, Producer and Moderator, NC SPIN, May 18, 2017.

Voter ID is dead in North Carolina…or is it? U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts’ pronouncement on the matter raises many questions, and whereas opponents of the 2013 Voter ID law were quick to celebrate victory, they might have been premature.

Essentially, Roberts said the highest court wouldn’t consider the appeal of the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals verdict – that the law discriminated against African-American voters – because the court wasn’t sure who was speaking for the plaintiff (state) in the appeal. In fact, he urged us not to take the decision as a comment about the substance of the law.

It is no wonder the Supreme Court might be confused. Following the lower court’s ruling, then-Attorney General Roy Cooper stated he would not appeal the decision, leaving Governor McCrory to make the appeal to the Supreme Court. Shortly after becoming governor, Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein withdrew the state’s appeal. Just who is the plaintiff in the appeal?

We have many questions. First, what is wrong with asking voters to present some identification when they vote? 32 states currently have some form of voter ID laws. If, however, the motivation for voter ID is to intimidate or disenfranchise certain groups from voting, that is clearly unconstitutional and just wrong. It would be equally wrong to ascribe intent to our lawmakers, but based on their efforts in redistricting and discrimination, a reasonable person might conclude they weren’t merely interested in just preventing voter fraud, most especially since evidence of voter fraud is minimal.

Justice Roberts’ question is valid and timely in the voter ID case, namely who does and should represent the state? Our constitution envisions it to be our Attorney General’s office, but does this constitutionally-elected officer have the prerogative to decide which laws will or will not be defended? In a perfect world one would hope that the legislature would involve the AG in considering legislation, but we know this doesn’t always happen. Previous AG’s have determined not to defend certain laws, so some precedent has been established, but if the AG will not defend legislation do the Governor and/or the legislature have the authority to hire their own attorneys at taxpayer expense? When our long-standing system breaks down, especially when the AG, governor and legislative leadership might belong to different political parties, how can we avoid overt partisanship? This is a good government question.

Assuming there was no confusion about who is officially representing the state in the voter ID case would the Supreme Court have considered the appeal? The 4th circuit decision declared the 2013 law (later amended), “with almost surgical precision,” targeted African Americans. The state was unable to convince that court to the contrary. Previous court decisions at many levels have come down solidly against discrimination and restriction of voting rights, however we now have a new Supreme Court and it remains to be seen how this new court might rule.

Legislative leaders declare they will pass new voter ID legislation. While we have no objection to verifying our identity when voting, we suggest lawmakers consult the other 32 states to determine how to do so in a way that will both pass court scrutiny and not discriminate against certain voters.

 

 

 

Category: NC SPIN Perspectives - Opinions from NC Leaders & Organizations

Comments (1)

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  1. Richard L Bunce says:

    Put the photo on the voter registration card. Everyone registered to vote gets a voter registration card with their photo on it. While they are at it, add a process to actually validate the citizenship oath on each voter registration form. NC Constitution requires NC voters to be US citizens. US Constitution five Amendments that protect voting rights only apply to US citizens.