North Carolina Democrats on Monday called for Republican Gov. Pat McCrory to stand up to what they consider radical GOP lawmakers pushing a series of bills designed to restrict turnout among certain blocs of voters.
Democratic leaders and one lawmaker blasted a recently introduced voter ID law and other proposed legislation during a press conference in which they acknowledged that their weakened position in the General Assembly requires them to urge voters to contact their representatives.
"We're going to go statewide," said North Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Randy Voller." I don't have the votes in the General Assembly, so I'm calling on them."
The proposed North Carolina voter ID law, which would take effect in 2016, would require voters to show one of eight state-issued forms of photo identification or a tribal ID card. Students attending a UNC-system school or community college could present student IDs. Provisional ballots for those without photo ID on Election Day are allowed but would only be counted if the voter returns to a local election board before results are official.
The law includes a provision waiving fees for state-issued ID for those who sign a statement swearing they don't have a birth certificate or the means to pay. But groups such as the NAACP have still decried the bill as an unconstitutional poll tax, and they plan to hold a rally Tuesday starting at the historic First Baptist Church. They then plan to press state legislators.
North Carolina's debate is similar to those that have been going in other states where Republicans have recently taken control of state legislatures and governorships and pressed new voter ID laws or measures to restrict early voting.
Many Republicans say the voter ID changes are needed to ensure the process is free of corruption. Critics counter that voter fraud is not widely documented and contend that Republicans are trying to reduce participation by minority voters and others considered bases of Democratic support.
The voter ID measure in North Carolina is the latest in a string of Republican-sponsored bills that critics call cynical ploys to limit turnout. Various measures making their way through the General Assembly would cut back early-voting periods while eliminating Sunday voting and same-day registration during that period; require ex-felons to wait five years before reinstating their voting rights; and take away the dependent tax deduction from the parents of college students who vote where they go to school.
Voller argued that McCrory, who took office earlier this year, owes much of his support in his successful bid for governor to Democrats and independents, and those voters don't like what they're seeing in the General Assembly.
"It's time for this governor, who ran as a moderate, to reign in this radical, reactionary state legislature and lead," he said. "It's time for this governor to tell them, as (former Gov.) Bev Perdue did, that he will veto bills that are not good for the citizens of North Carolina."
Perdue, a Democrat, vetoed the last GOP attempt at voter ID legislation in 2011, but Republicans now hold veto-proof majorities in both the House and state Senate.
Kim Genardo, a spokeswoman for the governor, declined comment on specific measures, saying McCrory hasn't reviewed them yet and none have reached his desk. She added that McCrory meets with the Black Legislative Caucus Tuesday morning to talk about their concerns with new voting laws.
"He's the type of leader who likes to hear debate on all sides," she said.
Louis Duke, president of College Democrats of North Carolina, assailed Republicans for the tax-deduction measure, arguing they're backing away from opposition to taxation to advance their own interests.
"North Carolina Republicans are so desperate to suppress the youth vote in our state that they are willing to increase taxes on our hardworking parents," he said.
Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett and chairman of the House Elections Committee, could not be immediately reached for comment on the GOP-backed changes.
State Rep. Alma Adams, D-Guilford, said the bill rolling back early voting by a week from the current 17 days shows that Republicans haven't learned from a similar attempt in Florida that a county election official from there told a North Carolina House Committee resulted in a "nightmare" on Election Day.
Florida voters last year faced hours-long waits before and on Election Day, prompting the GOP-led Legislature to consider restoring early-voting days.
"Well, my friends, the `nightmare' has come to Jones Street," she said.
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