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Opinion Voter ID opposition in N.C. is way off-base

Democrats can boast about winning the White House all day long, but they got their butts thoroughly whipped in North Carolina last November.

As expected in the aftermath with bruised egos, Democrats' hatred for Republicans was predictable but still troubling. After two months of Republican domination, Democrats, the minority party, appear to be in over their heads and in search of a real agenda.

Change is hard. And sometimes recognizing when change is necessary is even harder. Democrats operate in a crisis mode and huddle over hot-button issues. Accordingly, everything from the governor's office and the Republican-led General Assembly has been decried as divisive, mean-spirited, bigoted, politically motivated and unnecessary. Haven't state Democratic Party operatives figured out anything? Don't they know what most North Carolinians care about? Obviously, important stuff simply doesn't resonate with Democrats.

A recent Elon University poll showed that more than 72 percent of North Carolina residents support the idea of requiring voters to show photo ID before being allowed to vote. Fifty-two percent of Democrats support voter ID, and 97 percent of those sampled said they already have some form of photo ID.

Given the broad support for a voter ID law and the fact that Republicans control both chambers of the state legislature and the governor's office, it's almost a certainty voter ID in North Carolina is a done deal. Opponents of photo ID claim that more than 600,000 voters would be disenfranchised, although some observers hold that number is suspect.

Four Democratic lawmakers from the Cape Fear region have filed bills that would ensure no voter would be excluded from the process because of lack of an ID. Sen. Ben Clark and Reps. Marvin Lucas, Elmer Floyd and Charles Graham have introduced bills that would allow a registered voter without a photo ID to vote anyway, after signing an affidavit asserting his or her identity and having his or her photo taken at the polling place. Misrepresenting information would be a felony.

The head of the North Carolina NAACP is comparing Republicans' attempts to require voter ID to a poll tax. The 24th Amendment eliminated poll taxes. The amendment was proposed by Congress to the states in 1962 and was ratified by the states in 1964. The amendment made the poll tax unconstitutional for federal elections and later for state elections as well.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled a requirement for photo ID to vote constitutional. Comparing ID laws to Jim Crow-era poll taxes that have been outlawed for more than 50 years is an analogy completely off-base. Even the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals - the most liberal in the country - didn't buy the poll tax claim when it recently reviewed Arizona's voter ID law. The poll tax assertion is racially charged, and let's be honest - it's meant to be.

The radical left of the Democratic Party are rolling their eyes now, so let me pose some more questions. Why would key Senate and House Democrats and the NAACP oppose the Voter Integrity and Protection Act legislation introduced by some members of our local delegation? The proposed legislation is solutionoriented. Isn't that what good representation is supposed to be about? And the sponsors of this bill are hardly right-wingers. In fact, they are all Democrats. Sen. Clark, Rep. Lucas and Rep. Floyd are African-Americans. Rep. Graham is American Indian.

Regrettably, the nature of politics is adversarial because it's a tussle for power, and Democrats are playing a game of opposing just for the sake of opposing. It's an easy conclusion to draw when you consider all the facts. Democrats refuse to admit the shift in power was a mandate, and they blame their election losses on new voting districts. But the truth is Democrats lost 16 N.C. House seats prior to the new district maps and 10 afterward.

Last week, hundreds of people crowded a four-hour meeting in Raleigh to voice their opinion on proposed legislation for voter ID. The majority of the speakers criticized the anticipated new legislation, arguing that there was little voter fraud in the state and that requiring photos would be an obstacle to voting. Advocates in favor of photo IDs said the requirement would increase public confidence in elections and that fraud is more widespread than statistics show.

A significant number of those opposing the change were African-Americans. Some recalled personal experiences of being denied the right to vote. They believe 21st century racists have found new tactics for achieving voter suppression and disenfranchisement. The timing of the voter ID rhetoric in proximity to the election of President Barack Obama has helped fuel some of these conspiracy theories.

I disagree with them and their tactics. Let's prepare voters for the inevitable and get a photo ID if you plan on voting.

Troy Williams is an independent management consultant. Reprinted with the author’s permission.

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