In 2013, just weeks after the Supreme Court gutted the landmark Voting Rights Act, North Carolina passed one of the worst voter suppression laws in the country. As part of a long list of new requirements, the law forced voters to show one of a short list of acceptable forms of photo identification to cast a ballot.
That law was overturned by the Supreme Court, which found last year that it targeted “African-Americans with almost surgical precision.”
But North Carolina’s Republican Party was not dissuaded. On Monday, the five-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder decision, the state general assembly voted 74-44 to move forward with a renewed voter ID bill that could impose exactly the same restrictions on the state’s voters.
“We’ve been down this path before,” Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina, told ThinkProgress.
More than the required 60 percent of the state’s lower chamber voted in favor of an amendment Monday night that would add a voter ID requirement to the state constitution. If given another favorable vote in the House this week and then if passed by the Senate, North Carolina voters will decide on the amendment in November. The bill does not specify which forms of ID would be accepted or any other details about the potential law. The GOP hopes it would have time to pass the law between November and January, when the party might lose its supermajority.
“There are no details,” Phillips said. “There has not been a thoughtful, deliberative process to allow for public input, but of course it’s hard to have any kind of input when you don’t know what kind of acceptable IDs are going to be allowed. That’s just one of a litany of problems we have with this whole proposal.”
North Carolina’s last voter ID law, passed in 2013 and widely considered the most aggressive of its kind in the country, did not allow student IDs or public employee IDs. During the 2016 election, a significant number of college students were blocked from the polls because of the law.
Roughly 318,000 registered voters in North Carolina lack the forms of acceptable ID, and abundant research shows that voter ID laws disproportionately disenfranchise minorities, low-income voters, and the elderly. Between 2013 and 2016, North Carolina spent millions of dollars defending the law in court, while a significant number of black voters were kept from participating in elections.
Meanwhile, the GOP claims the law is necessary to prevent voter fraud. According to the News & Observer, an audit of the millions of votes cast in the 2016 general election found just one case of voter impersonation at a polling place: a woman impersonated her deceased mother.
If the legislature were to write a restrictive voter ID law between the November election and when the newly elected lawmakers take over, Phillips said he expects Common Cause and other groups would file suit.
The voter ID requirement isn’t the only voting law that North Carolina’s GOP is trying to ram through the legislature while the party still has a supermajority in both chambers. When the Supreme Court court overturned North Carolina’s massive voter suppression law — which included the voter ID requirement — in 2017, it also shot down a provision that shortened the early voting period by a full week.
Earlier this month, both chambers of the legislature passed a law that would eliminate early voting the Saturday before an election. According to the New York Times, almost 200,000 people voted on the Saturday before the election in 2016, and African-Americans turned out at a rate 40 percent higher than their share of the electorate.
“It’s one of those things that makes no sense, other than to make voting harder,” Phillips said. “It will make voting harder for certain constituencies that really utilize early voting.”
The bill would also require all of the state’s counties of vastly varying sizes and budgets to offer a uniform number of early voting hours. The counties would have to pay for the voting centers, and some would likely have to close locations in order to accommodate the additional required hours, Phillips said.
House Speaker Tim Moore (R) brought the bill for a vote before the chamber had an opportunity for debate and before it was reviewed by the State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement. “Aren’t we going to debate the bill?” Rep. Marcia Morey (D) could be heard asking while House members were voting, according to the News & Observer. The Senate then voted on the proposal which had been made public less than two days earlier.
Gov. Roy Cooper (D) vetoed that bill late Monday, but the GOP has enough members in the legislature to override the veto.
“Previous attempts like this by the legislature to discriminate and manipulate the voting process have been struck down by the courts,” he said in a statement. “True democracy should make it easier for people to vote, not harder.”
Hoping the voter ID bill doesn’t also go into law, voting advocates and other groups are attempting to push back against the legislation, despite the fact that the GOP’s control in the state means that it will most likely pass without issue. Advocates affiliated with Color of Change, a civil rights organization, launched a campaign this month against Amazon and Apple, pressuring them not to move their headquarters to North Carolina if the the state intends to enforce a voter ID law. Both Apple and Amazon have been eyeing Raleigh, the state capital, as a potential location for new headquarters.
UPDATE: This story has been updated to reflect the fact that Gov. Cooper vetoed the early voting law late Monday.