Jo Nicholas Testifies Before Elections Committee
LWVNC President Opposes Proposed Photo ID Requirement
Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee, Staff and Guests:
Good afternoon. I am Jo Nicholas, President of the League of Women Voters of North Carolina. I want to thank you for the opportunity to share our STRONG concerns about this legislation. On behalf of the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, I come before you today in strong opposition to this policy--a new government program that would require voters to show government-issued photo identification in order to exercise their constitutional right to vote. We oppose this legislation because:
1. It will cost millions of dollars to implement
2. It will disenfranchise thousands of eligible voters and
3. It is unneeded.
First let's take a look at the fiscal impact of the new government program. Photo ID is a prime example of wasteful use of taxpayers' money. This legislation could cost the citizens of North Carolina thousands of dollars to implement annually. Voters sent a clear message in the November 2012 election: They want responsible, cost-efficient government. Wasting precious taxpayer dollars to pay for voter photo ID, when our state has effective identification procedures already in place, will be seen by voters for what it really is--politics as usual at a time when we are cutting essential state government services. There is no such thing as a free voter ID. There are significant on-going costs for state and local governments, as well as indirect costs for citizens who apply for the ID.
At a time when our state is in the midst of an ongoing fiscal crisis it seems irresponsible to use taxpayer's money to create a new government program to address an issue that rarely exists--voter impersonation.
Second, besides the huge cost to implement and maintain the new government program, Photo ID requirements represent one of the most serious threats in decades to our efforts to ensure the right of every eligible American to vote. Research shows that it encourages racial and ethnic discrimination at polling places, prevents eligible voters from participating in our democracy and does very little to combat genuine instances of voter's impersonating someone else at the polls.
These requirements would potentially oppress tens of thousands of registered voters without a valid photo ID due to disability, age, illness, transportation, or financial issues. According to a study conducted by the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, as many as 11 percent of United States citizens, more than 21 million individuals do not have government-issued photo identification. Here in North Carolina that number is well over the half million mark. The burden will be greatest for citizens for whom it is most cost prohibitive or inconvenient to take off work, get transportation, stand in line, and apply for documentation. Often these individuals don't have the underlying documentation that is needed to get an ID. Thus, this requirement would restrict the very people who currently must work the hardest to vote.
Third, there has been little evidence of voter impersonation occurring in North Carolina. Clearly this is a solution in search of a problem
Our state government should be in the business of making it easier for citizens to vote, not adding costly restrictions and hassles that will negatively impact all voters. The League supports free, fair and accessible elections for all eligible Americans and we oppose efforts to create barriers that block citizens from fully participating in our great democracy. Voting is the one time when all citizens have an equal say in how we shall be governed. Politicians are threatening our equality, and thus our democracy, by gaming the system for their own personal gain.
The League of Women Voters of North Carolina calls on the State Legislature to reject this costly and unnecessary legislation.
Jo Nicholas, President
League of Women Voter of North Carolina
- Tags: photo ID