Voter ID campaign draws ire
By Karissa Minn
SALISBURY — Opposition mounted against a photo ID requirement for voters at the Rowan County and East Spencer board meetings Monday.
The Rowan County Board of Commissioners heard from several people who spoke against a local bill it requested at its Nov. 21 meeting.
If passed by state legislators, the bill would allow Rowan County to require voters to show photo identification at the polls. It would be patterned after an N.C. Senate bill passed by the General Assembly this year but vetoed by the governor.
Elaine Mills, a chief poll judge, said Rowan County has protections already in place against voter fraud.
Poll judges get to know voters in their precinct on sight, she said, and they ask voters they don’t recognize questions about where they live or who their neighbors are.
New voters are asked to show identification at the county elections office. If they are not seen there, they are asked for identification when voting for the first time.
“Anything out of line would tend to raise a red flag automatically, without any additional procedures that would take time and money,” Mills said.
Salisbury resident Nancy Lund said that according to the state Board of Elections, nearly 6,000 active registered voters in Rowan County don’t have a North Carolina driver’s license or government-issued photo ID.
Senior adults, women and African-Americans are most likely to be in this category. An African-American voter in Rowan County is twice as likely as a white voter to not have voter ID, Lund said.
“This is why this law will be challenged as a discriminatory barrier to voting and will lead to lawsuits,” Lund said.
She said Rowan County must provide free photo IDs to citizens to avoid violating the law.
“This cost will be borne by the taxpayers at a time when we have a budget that cannot support our county agencies and workers,” Lund said.
The county also would have to provide free photo identification to people in jail who are awaiting trial, said William Peoples, of Salisbury.
Peoples asked why the county needs this bill when voter turnout was so low in this year’s municipal elections.
“When you look at it on a local level, is this something we can justify — that we can say that we need?” Peoples asked. “This just seems like it’s following the leader of the national agenda, and the national agenda seems like it doesn’t want people to vote.”
Also Monday, the East Spencer Town Board of Alderman unanimously approved a resolution opposing the North Carolina Voter Identification Act and any local bill requiring voter ID.
“(The) Voter ID Act provides an unnecessary, bureaucratic and costly resolution to address a problem that may only occur in one out of each one million or more votes cast,” the resolution states. “(The) Voter ID bill would cause more problems with widespread voter disenfranchisement than it could possibly solve.”
It says the law would disproportionately affect the elderly, people of color, students, low income residents and people with disabilities.
The resolution refers to an opinion issued by N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper on Nov. 23, which says that enacting the Voter ID Act by local or special bill would likely be unconstitutional.
If either the state bill or local bill does pass, the resolution says, East Spencer will make several requests of the state and/or Rowan County.
It will ask that funding be allocated for voters to be provided with free photo ID cards. It also asks for funding to give them access to free transportation and identification, including birth certificates and Social Security cards, required to get those cards.
The town also will ask that accredited colleges and universities be authorized to issue state-recognized photo ID cards to students.
According to the resolution, this would “prevent the disenfranchisement of student voters who may not qualify for North Carolina identification cards, but who meet all the residency and citizenship requirements to vote in the state.”
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.
In other business
Rowan County Commissioners also:
• Discussed requests of staff made by individual commissioners.
Commissioner Jon Barber said commissioners should request information and meetings through the manager instead of department heads or other employees. He also suggested that the manager email any information provided or action taken to the rest of the commissioners.
Barber said the board didn’t need to take action, but he would begin following this procedure himself as of Monday night.
• Set a second meeting this month for Dec. 19 at 2 p.m.
• Set the board’s 2012 planning work session for Feb. 29 at 9 a.m.
• Established the board’s 2012 meeting schedule. Commissioners will continue to meet on the first Monday of each month at 3 p.m. and the third Monday of each month at 6 p.m., with exceptions for holidays.
• Set a public hearing on Jan. 3 for the fiscal year 2013 Community Transportation Program grant.
• Approved the purchase of flash upgrades for existing mobile radios from Motorola, at a discounted cost of about $250,000, as part of the county’s emergency communications project.
• Approved revisions to Rowan Transit System bylaws to correct references to the now-dissolved Senior Services Department.
• Approved personal and blanket bonds for Rowan County officials.
• Approved several budget amendments and board appointments.