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The American Civil Liberties Union says it’s going to take legal action to stop the country’s newest — and one of its most restrictive — voter ID laws, signed into law yesterday by Republican Governor Pat McCrory of North Carolina.
The new law requires voters to show government-issued photo ID cards, and outlaws college ID cards or out-of-state driver’s licenses as valid forms of identification.
The law also eliminates same-day voter registration, and allows any registered voter to challenge another’s eligibility.
“We’re requiring the same identification that you need to get almost any government services, including food stamps, including a tattoo in North Carolina, including Sudafed in North Carolina,” Gov. McCrory told Here & Now. “And we’re offering free government-issued IDs to anyone who doesn’t have one, at our local DMVs.”
An analysis by the group Democracy North Carolina found that 318,000 North Carolina voters do not have a driver’s license or other form of state-issued ID card. These are predominantly voters of color, elderly and poor voters.
JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:
From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Jeremy Hobson.
MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI, HOST:
I'm Meghna Chakrabarti, in for Robin Young. It's HERE AND NOW. Coming up, what's behind the latest delay in implementing a key part of the Affordable Care Act?
HOBSON: But first to North Carolina. The American Civil Liberties Union says it plans to take legal action to stop that state's new voter ID law. It was signed yesterday by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, and it is perhaps the most restrictive in the country. It requires a government-issued photo ID card to vote starting in 2016. It says college ID cards or out-of-state driver's licenses are not valid for voting, and it eliminates same-day voter registration.
Gov. McCrory joins us on the line from Raleigh to discuss. Governor, welcome.
GOVERNOR PAT MCCRORY: Thanks for having me, Jeremy.
Well, you've said that this law is going to combat voter fraud. What evidence is there that voter fraud exists in North Carolina?
Well, the fact of the matter is we aren't looking for voter fraud. We never really have. And if we're naïve enough to think that there's not voter fraud in the 10th largest state in the United States of America, then I think we've got our head in the sand, especially when you have tens of millions of dollars being spent on both gubernatorial and presidential campaigns in our state.
And we have loopholes in our voting laws which frankly allow people to vote once or twice, or even more because we don't have restrictions that 34 states do have in the nation. Thirty-four states currently require some sort of identification, and so we're doing what the majority of states are doing right now throughout the United States of America.
HOBSON: But you are going the farthest with this photo ID law, and you say you don't have evidence that there's - you're just thinking that there is voter fraud happening, but you don't know.
MCCRORY: We know there are major loopholes, and we've had major campaign violations also by even my predecessors running for governor. And again with tens of millions of dollars, we have to make sure we're doing everything we can to make sure there isn't voter fraud and that one vote is one person voting.
And without the photo ID, there is no guarantee that the person voting is actually the person that is registered to vote.
HOBSON: Yeah, but you've got to...
MCCRORY: And we're doing what 34 states - so I'm not sure where this national media is saying that we have the most restrictive laws. We're requiring the same identification that you need to get almost any government services, including food stamps, including a tattoo in North Carolina, including Sudafed in North Carolina, you have to show a government-issued ID.
And we are offering free government-issued IDs to anyone who doesn't have one at our local DMVs that are located throughout North Carolina.
HOBSON: Now right now it's estimated that 318,000 voters in your state do not have a driver's license or some other form of state-issued photo ID card. These are predominately voters of color, elderly, poor voters. Are you worried that they're going to not be able to vote because of what you're doing here?
MCCRORY: First of all, we dispute some of those numbers, and - but we are offering free IDs at DMVs, and this law is not going to be enacted for another three and a half years. So people have plenty of time to get an ID. And frankly, these days you need an ID to get on an airplane, to get government services, to even get into the White House. And I think that the same qualifications should apply to voting.
HOBSON: But the argument that we hear every time you say what you have said here is that these - not everybody needs to get on an airplane or go to the White House. So they might not feel that they need to have a photo ID. They may not even be paying attention to the news today, and then they show up to vote in 2016, and it doesn't work.
MCCRORY: Well, we could use that same argument, then, for food stamps, for almost every government service you need an ID. And sooner or later in one's life, you need to have some sort of photo identification to identify who you are for almost any service. Regardless of your age or income or race or anything else, having a photo ID is a good idea, and it's a good idea for voting, and it's a good idea that 34 states require some form of ID to vote.
North Carolina had no identification required for voting, and we were actually in the minority with regard to what other states are doing.
HOBSON: Governor, the state chapter of the NAACP has called this law a poll tax dressed up in new clothes. How do you respond to that?
MCCRORY: It's totally false, and I think the rhetoric is misleading, and that is just totally - it's offensive to me that they even compare the two because then they're also saying that 34 other states are doing the same thing. And in fact where they have voter ID, the increase in election - turnout actually increased in many states. And this is just not in the South. This is throughout the Midwest and the North.
We actually have much more liberal voting laws than the state of New York. New York state, for example, doesn't even do early voting. We have two weeks of early voting. We changed some of the rules where now every precinct has to be open, where politics are not being played out by either political party on having certain precincts in certain areas to deny people the proper access.
We're now having equal access for all people. We also closed some loopholes where lobbyists don't get to bundle money anymore, and we're cleaning up some of the corruption that frankly has existed in North Carolina politics in the past.
HOBSON: Your law also eliminates a program that would pre-register high school students to vote, allowing many of them to vote right when they turn 18. Why take that away?
MCCRORY: Well again, we're one of 43 states that does not allow underage voters to pre-register because it was costing more, and frankly we think students can do that themselves, just like any other age group, to sign up to vote. And by the way, we also have a program when you get a driver's license, you can automatically sign up to vote when you get a driver's license in North Carolina.
HOBSON: Governor, when people hear this, they're going to be thinking, well, you know, if you make people have a photo ID, you're going to reduce the number of voters of color. If you don't do this pre-registration program, you're going to reduce the number of young voters. These are all good things for Republicans and bad things for Democrats.
MCCRORY: There are absolutely no statistics to back that up, but I think what you should be asking is why would people be against having a basic photo ID. We've got to make sure that every vote counts, and that's exactly what we're doing. So we're kind of surprised that the - I think the very strong rhetoric from the left that's trying to deny the protection of voting.
And that's very important to me as governor. It's one of my major responsibilities.
HOBSON: Finally, Governor, are you expecting a challenge from the Justice Department, from Attorney General Eric Holder, over this?
MCCRORY: I don't know. I mean, we've heard that people have asked him to challenge it, and of course he has every right to do that, but if he challenges North Carolina's voter ID laws, he's probably going to have to challenge at least 34 other states that are doing basically the same thing. And I don't know what his legal standing would be to do that.
I feel very comfortable. We're offering free IDs. We're giving three years' notice. You know, it's - we have several different forms of identification that are available. We're just ensuring one person, one vote, and that's the law of the land, and I'm very proud of this way that we've framed a bill also in making sure that we don't have the corruption in North Carolina politics that we've had in the past. And I'm very, very proud of that.
HOBSON: Gov. Pat McCrory, Republican of North Carolina, speaking to us from Raleigh. Governor, thank you so much.
MCCRORY: Thank you very much for having me. Take care now. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.