Bryant among many blasting voter ID passed by Senate

Jul. 25, 2013 @ 08:43 PM

Four Democrats representing the Tri-County in the General Assembly continued the fight against voter identification legislation Thursday, but prospects were dim the Republican-backed majority would be overturned.

At press time, the bill had passed the Senate and was in the House of Representatives. If passed there, it would head to the desk of Gov. Pat McCrory for signature into law.

Sen. Angela Bryant blasted the legislation as an act of suppression.

“This is not a voter ID bill,” Bryant wrote in an email to The Dispatch Thursday night. “This is a voter suppression bill — cutting early voting days, eliminating pre-registration for teens, eliminating same-day registration with early voting, and eliminating straight-party voting.

“It cuts everyday people’s access to the polls while increasing contributions of the wealthy from $4,000 to $5,000 per election cycle and allows for the first time ever for political party operations.”

Under the new provision, up to three staff people can be hired by a candidate, according to Bryant.

“These provisions are designed to limit voting in order to maintain power and all of the restrictions have a negative impact on voting access for students, elders and people of color,” Bryant wrote. “In addition, the most glaring and shocking suppression tactic in the voter ID provisions is the non-acceptance of any college or university IDs while in contrast, Georgia accepts at least 50 types of college IDs.”

Before the House reconvened from recess about 7:30 Thursday night, Rep. Winkie Wilkins predicted a long night.

“We expect to receive the voter bill from the Senate shortly after reconvening,” Wilkins wrote in an email to The Dispatch. “It will obviously be late tonight before a vote will be taken. I expect considerable debate.”

Sen. Floyd McKissick Jr. and Rep. Nathan Baskerville have also opposed the voter ID measure. Efforts to get direct comment from each were unsuccessful amid the late-session flurry of activity in Raleigh.

“This is about suppressing the vote,” McKissick told The Associated Press. “When I look at all these measures in their totality, I can't help but wonder if the goal is simply to maintain political power.”

The bill was expected to pass along party lines before the General Assembly, in session since January, adjourned for the year.

The Senate approved a bill requiring voters to present government-issued photo IDs at the polls. It shortens early voting by one week, ends same-day registration during early voting, and eliminates a high school civics program that registers thousands of students to vote in advance of their 18th birthdays.

Straight-ticket voting, in place since 1925, would be eliminated. Disclosure requirements to make clear who underwrites campaign ads would be weakened, and unlimited corporate donations would be available to political parties.

Groups anchored by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People have protested in Raleigh for each of the last 12 Mondays.

According to the AP, Attorney General Eric Holder says the U.S. Justice Department will challenge a new voter ID law in Texas and hinted it may pursue similar legal action against other states, including North Carolina. Several other groups, including the NACCP, also indicated they might mount legal challenges.

Vance County commissioners were among many statewide local governments sending resolutions to the General Assembly requesting no changes in the election process, either for voter ID or for early voting.

Last month, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to essentially stop enforcement provisions of the Voting Rights Act. That statue outlawed racial discrimination against voters. Most states subject to the law were in the South, including North Carolina. Each state had to get approval in advance before making minor changes to voting laws.

The highest court’s decision enabled North Carolina to make changes without federal approval.

"We understand there will be lawsuits," Phil Berger told the AP. He’s the Senate leader and a Republican from Rockingham as well as a lawyer.

He added, “It's our belief the laws we are passing are consistent with Constitutional requirements and they will be upheld.”

Republicans gained control of both houses in 2010 for the first time since Reconstruction. They gained full control of the state’s branches when McCrory took the governor’s seat in January.

According to the State Board of Elections Thursday night, the state lists more than 2.7 million Democrats, more than 1.9 million Republicans and more than 1.6 million unaffiliated voters among the 6.4 million who are registered.

Contact the writer at awooten@hendersondispatch.com.