The controversial voter identification bill passed the state House with some Democrats joining the GOP majority.
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP/WECT) - A bill requiring voters to present photo identification to cast a ballot is headed to the North Carolina Senate after passing the House.
The Republican-controlled House approved the bill Wednesday on an 81-36 vote. Five Democrats voted with Republicans on the bill, including local Rep. Ken Waddell (D-Columbus) and Rep. William Brisson (D-Bladen). Rep. Susi Hamilton (D-New Hanover) voted against it, while all other local representatives (Catlin, Davis, Iler, Millis) voted for the bill.
"I'm sure I'll get some 'why did you vote for the Voter ID bill' questions," Waddell said in a phone interview after the vote. "But I can explain why I did it. I based it on what a majority of my constituents told me back home. Most people are sold on the idea of Voter ID, and I think you'll see an increase in voting in North Carolina."
Waddell said since the bill doesn't go into effect until 2016, there is still time to work out some of the concerns he has with the bill. Waddell said he does have a problem with the absentee voters section of the bill. He also believes the bill will be ultimately be challenged in the courts.
"I think everybody is glad the vote is over with," Waddell added. "Now we can get down to dealing with some of the fiscal issues for the people of North Carolina."
The vote followed nearly three hours of amendments and debate. Most Democratic amendments failed, but one from Rep. Charles Graham of Lumberton restored state tribal ID to the forms of ID accepted under the bill.
The bill has sharply divided Republicans and Democrats. Debate on the House floor mirrored the arguments from both sides over the past month of committee meetings and public hearings. Republicans argue the bill will protect against fraud while Democrats say there's no strong evidence that such a problem exists and the real motivation is voter suppression.
The comments on the vote fell mostly along party lines.
"This is a historic vote for North Carolina," said House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg) in a statement. "This strong message of bipartisanship on such an important, and at times controversial, issue is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the House members who remained committed to this effort for many months. I commend their work, and I am encouraged by the overwhelming support this bill received today."
"We all agree that it's important to protect the integrity of our voting system, but putting up barriers that will make it harder for hundreds of thousands of eligible North Carolinians to vote is not the answer," said a statement from ACLU-NC Policy Director Sarah Preston. "We urge the Senate to reject this proposal and instead take steps to ensure that all eligible voters in our state are able to exercise their fundamental right to vote without having to face any additional obstacles."
"North Carolina families want their leaders working to create jobs, but instead Speaker Thom Tillis is focused on legislation that will make it harder for citizens to exercise their fundamental right to vote and cost taxpayers $3.6 million," said an email statement from Ben Ray, Director of Rapid Response for the North Carolina Democratic Party. "Speaker Tillis admits that this legislation isn't about fraud, which means he is simply trying to restrict access to the ballot box since he knows his extreme agenda is unacceptable to North Carolina families looking for real progress on jobs and the economy."
"North Carolinians consistently and overwhelmingly support photo ID requirements for voting," Tillis said. "This bill not only responds to the opinions of our constituents, but also provides individuals without photo ID's with an opportunity to acquire them at no cost. This common-sense measure will protect the integrity of the ballot box and restore confidence in our election system."
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