N.C. House Republicans have laid out a methodical approach and timetable on a voter ID law that is aimed at getting a vote on the issue by April.

On Tuesday, GOP leaders announced that they’ll hold a public hearing next week and later bring experts before the House Elections Committee, all before they even roll out their version of the bill.

“We’re going to go through a very deliberative, responsible, and interactive approach through public hearings, through hearing to the legislature so that we arrive at a policy that is fair, that takes into account legitimate reasons why voters may not have an ID and to place a solution – a way that those IDs can be issued,” House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, said during a news conference.

Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, who co-chairs the House Elections Committee, laid out the following timetable for producing a voter ID bill:

— The House Elections Committee will hold a public hearing on voter ID on 4 p.m. Tuesday, March 12, in Room 643 of the Legislative Office Building.

— The following day, on March 13, the House Elections Committee will meet and hear from a panel of experts on both sides of the issue.

— A week later, on March 20, the committee will further hear from elections experts and discuss “administrative challenges “ surrounding voter ID laws, Lewis said.
“After we’ve heard from all the stake-holders who want to be involved in this, who want to actively participate in the legislative process, sometime after about March 25 you will see a bill filed,” Lewis said.

The committee will then review the bill, but won’t take a vote on it during that first meeting to review the bill, Lewis said. Legislators and members of the public will have at least a week to scrutinize the bill before it is acted upon, Lewis said.

Lewis is targeting putting a bill before the House sometime in April. He said North Carolinians could use a bill that passed the General Assembly two years ago – but was vetoed by then Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue – as a starting point for the substance in a yet-to-be-written 2013 bill.

The features of that bill included requirements that voters show an approved photo ID when they vote. Approved IDs include a driver’s license, DMV photo ID card, passport, state employee ID card, military ID card and a tribal ID card.

This time, there’s a Republican occupying the Executive Mansion. He has indicated more favorable support for a photo ID bill than his Democratic predecessor.

McCrory said he supports a photo ID requirement, but is open to other options.

“But I’m going to let the legislature paint the details of that, and as they get into the details I’ll give my feedback,” McCrory said at a Thursday afternoon press conference. “But I anticipate that definitely being voted on before the session ends, and we will have a new voter ID requirement which will protect the integrity of the voter box for generations to come.”

The effort has become a highly partisan issue, with GOP leaders saying a photo ID is needed to combat voter fraud.
Meanwhile, Democratic leaders argue that fraud isn’t rampant and such an ID requirement isn’t needed. They also say it will disenfranchise voters who don’t have an approved ID, adding that it will disproportionately affect minority and elderly voters.

Lewis said that Republicans are intent on getting eligible voters IDs if they don’t possess them. “We are trying to cover every base that we can, trying to look at how many North Carolina voters may actually need IDs,” he said.
Lewis also said is reaching out to House Democrats for input, “not that they will support the bill.”

House Minority Leader Larry Hall, D-Durham, did not return a call seeking comment.

“We’re asking them to come to the table and seriously talk about an issue that is very important to us,” Lewis said of his hope that Democrats will work to make the bill better even if they don’t vote for it.

(CJ Associate Editor Day Way contributed to this report.)