Senate Republicans unveiled a voter ID bill Thursday that resembles a version the House passed earlier this year, with a handful of glaring differences. Senate Rules Committee Chairman Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, also said other election-related measures — including several affecting early voting — could be folded into the bill.
The Senate version of House Bill 589 would not recognize ID cards issued by the University of North Carolina system, state community colleges, private employers, local governments, and law enforcement agencies for the purpose of voting. The House bill would.
The Senate also would not establish an advisory board within the State Board of Elections, the way the House bill would.
The Senate bill is likely to come before the chamber Tuesday. If approved, it’s possible the House will not concur, requiring any final negotiated version to move quickly for adoption. Senate and House leaders have said they plan to adjourn the session no later than Thursday.
Apodaca said GOP senators wanted to tighten up the photo ID requirement regarding university IDs, saying there was a concern about the guidelines for college IDs. There was also a concern that out-of-state residents could end up casting ballots.
“They could come here and vote and vote absentee up in New York,” Apodaca said.
Apodaca said senators thought a Voter Information Verification Advisory board, included in the House version, was unnecessary, so it was left out of the Senate bill.
The version of H.B. 589 that passed the House would establish the board to help educate voters on the new ID requirement. Apodaca said he thinks voters will be aware of the photo ID requirement to vote by the time it’s fully implemented in 2016.
“We’re not really requiring [photo IDs] in 2014,” Apodaca said. During the 2014 election cycle, elections officials will ask voters for photo IDs when they go to the polls, but those who don’t have one will be allowed to vote, Apodaca said. They’ll be reminded that the requirement will be in place during the 2016 elections.
In addition, Apodaca said the political parties would be a part of the education process.
“I think you’re going to see both parties notify the folks of that requirement, because they want them to vote,” Apodaca said.
People who don’t possess an acceptable photo ID could get one free of charge at the local Division of Motor Vehicles office, Apodaca said.
Acceptable IDs would include a North Carolina driver’s license, DMV identification card, a U.S. passport, a military ID card, a veterans ID card, a tribal enrollment card, and a driver’s license or ID card issued by another state, provided the voter registered to vote within 90 days of the election.
While Republican officials have favored requiring a government-issued photo ID to vote, Democratic officials have fought the idea. Two years ago, the GOP-led General Assembly approved a voter ID bill, only to have it vetoed by then-Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue. Republicans in the General Assembly were not able to muster enough votes to override the veto.
This year, Republicans believe their chances are better since their numbers are stronger in both the House and the Senate, and Republican Gov. Pat McCrory is in office. McCrory has said he supports a voter ID bill, though he has left the details of the legislation up to lawmakers.
The current measure addresses the photo ID requirement, and places more controls on absentee ballot voting. But it does not include a litany of other suggested changes to election law that have been put forth by Republican legislators this year.
Apodaca said that other election law changes could be rolled into the voter ID bill by the time it is brought up Tuesday. He didn’t say which measures might be added.
Proposed changes to election laws include shortening the early voting period, eliminating early voting on Sunday, not allowing college students who vote away from home to be claimed as exemptions on their parents’ state tax returns, reinstating partisan judicial elections, and eliminating same-day registration during early voting.
Another proposal would require convicted felons to wait five years before their citizenship is restored, thus delaying their ability to vote for five years after their sentence and probation are served.
Barry Smith (@Barry_Smith) is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.