LUMBERTON — Three of five House Democrats who voted in favor of a voter ID bill last week represent parts of Robeson County.
The bill, which allows a Lumbee Tribal card to count as a valid form of ID, now heads to the Senate, and Sen. Michael Walters, who represents all of Robeson County, wants to wait to read the bill before commenting on how he would vote.
The bill passed 81-36 mostly along party lines, with Reps. Charles Graham, Ken Waddell and Ken Goodman, all of whom represent parts of Robeson County, voting in favor. The fourth House representative of Robeson County, Garland Pierce, opposed the bill.
The other two House Democrats to support the bill were William D. Brisson of Bladen County and Paul Tine of Dare County. Two other Democrats missed the vote.
Walters, a Democrat, said this morning that the bill has not yet been scheduled for a Senate committee, a process that must take place before the bill goes to the Senate floor for a vote.
“In a committee a lot of things can happen,” he said. “I’m watching this bill closely as it passes through committee.”
Walters said that there are three strong points to the bill that passed the House that make it palatable for some Democrats, including the Robeson legislators who supported it last week. He said the strong points are that the bill won’t become effective until 2016; it allows members of North Carolina’s seven recognized American Indian tribes to use their tribal membership cards for voter identification; and anyone over the age of 70 can use an expired driver’s license as a form of identification.
Graham, a member of the Lumbee Tribe, said that he voted in favor of the bill after he was able to work with the bill’s sponsor to get an amendment to the original bill allowing for American Indians of the recognized state tribes to use their tribal membership cards for voter identification.
“I think that was pretty significant,” Graham said this morning. “I worked with the bill’s sponsor to the very end to make that happen.
“The form of the present bill is much better than the original bill proposed by the Republicans. It also provides that the voter identification requirements won’t become law until 2016.”
Pierce said whenever there is “tampering” with voters rights a “chill runs down the back” of many minority groups.
‘There are many who know what it was like not to be able to vote,” said Pierce, who is black.
Voter ID legislation has sharply divided Republicans and Democrats nationally and in North Carolina. A previous attempt by Republicans to enact a voter ID failed in 2011 when then-Gov. Beverly Perdue vetoed it.
According to Republicans, the bill will prevent fraud. Democrats and civil rights groups say the real motivation is suppressing turnout among those more likely to support Democratic candidates.
The bill would require voters to present one of nine forms of state-issued ID starting in 2016. Voters could cast provisional ballots if they don’t bring ID to the polls but would have to return later to a board of election with ID for their ballot to be counted.
The bill also authorizes a newly created board to lead a voter education campaign and reimburses Division of Motor Vehicle branches that will offer free ID. The cost of implementation is projected at $3.7 million.