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For immediate release.
Mar. 15, 2011
Contact: Bryan Warner, N.C. Center for Voter Education, 877-258-6837
Statement On Proposal to Require Photo ID to Vote in N.C.
RALEIGH – Monday night, House Bill 351 (“Restore Confidence in Government”) was introduced in the N.C. General Assembly, about 18 hours before a scheduled public hearing on voter ID.
Among several provisions, the measure would require North Carolina voters to provide a valid, state-issued photo ID when casting a ballot.
The following statement was made by Damon Circosta, executive director of the N.C. Center for Voter Education, to the N.C. House Elections Committee at today's public hearing:
"My Name is Damon Circosta, executive director of the North Carolina Center for Voter Education. My remarks today are chiefly concerned about process. Not just the changes to the election process under consideration today, but also the way in which these decisions are reached.
"Process matters. While we elected you to come to Raleigh to achieve particular outcomes, we are also very concerned about how things get done. My organization conducts public opinion research and time and again we see that voters are not only worried about what happens in Raleigh, but also how it happens. Our opinion research shows that North Carolinians think the system is broken. The last two elections may have had very different partisan outcomes, but one thing remains constant: people want to change the way things are done in the capital.
"So when I received an email from this committee saying that you would be holding a meeting to garner public input regarding photo ID to vote and that comments will be considered prior to the introduction of a bill, I was very pleased. You get it. Process matters and giving the public an opportunity to help shape your thinking signals to your constituents that you are listening.
"You can imagine my disappointment when less than 18 hours prior to this meeting, a bill was introduced. Some of the provisions in it are things my organization has supported and will support. But all of us here who signed up to offer our comments about voter ID laws were given precious little time to digest its contents and react in a thoughtful, constructive way. Had you introduced a bill a week ago and asked us to comment, that would have been wonderful, had you waited until after you heard what we had to say, that would have been great, too.
"Instead, what you will hear from both sides is frustration. We may be divided in what we think the problem is, or even how to fix it, but everyone here is deeply concerned that our election process is tilted. The timing of the bill's introduction could simply be an oversight, but for a public who already thinks this place is full of shenanigans, the timing adds to the skepticism. When it comes to the laws pertaining to elections, the public is already dubious.
"We are mindful that an introduced bill is not always the bill that ends up being passed. Regardless of the eventual outcome, I urge you to move deliberately. Process matters in every piece of legislation you consider, but it is doubly important when it comes to election law.
"What has been proposed may seem like a small change in our election process and for most people it likely will be just that. But for some people it could make all the difference between being able to freely participate in our democracy or being shut out. They may not be the people here today, and their numbers could be few, but they have just as much right to participate as you and I do. Democracy only works if it is available to everyone. If you want to truly restore confidence in government, please be mindful of the process. Thank you."