Unfortunately, the Voter ID amendment will pass

by | Jun 8, 2018 | 2018 elections, Editor's Blog | 27 comments

Democrats should resist the urge to make opposition to the voter ID amendment that’s speeding through the legislature a centerpiece of their fall campaign. If it’s on the ballot in November, it will pass by large margins. A loud and high profile campaign opposing it won’t stop the amendment from passing, but it will fire up the Republican base. Progressives should resist the bait.

Instead, Democrats should focus on shaping what an ID program looks like. If the goal is truly to prevent fraud instead of limiting access to the polls, measures should be in place to protect those citizens who have difficulty obtaining IDs. Any government issue, including student IDs, should be accepted.  People should have the right to vote provisionally until they can be proven to be citizens or not. The rules should be designed to count the vote of every citizen who is eligible. Democrats can only do that if they can at least break the veto-proof majority and, hopefully, win one house of the legislature.

Make no mistake, the amendment is the result of a cynical and highly successful disinformation campaign. The goal of the amendment is to shape the electorate more favorably to Republicans by making voting more difficult for people who would likely vote Democratic. The goal of the Republicans, though, is to fire up their base in the midterm elections.

The voter fraud campaign began with the election of Barack Obama. We never heard much about widespread fraud before that and the campaign has been brilliant. The idea of an ID to vote sounds neither radical nor offensive, given the number of things that require an ID in today’s world. However, not many people had thought much about voter IDs and for most, it’s not a driving issue.

Republicans, though, know their base. For a subset of Republican who were shocked and dismayed that a black man could win the presidency, a conspiracy theory that it was stolen by fraudulent votes made sense. (Remember, these are the same people who believe Donald Trump is honest.) In their telling of 2008, those votes would almost certainly have been cast by African-Americans who wanted to ensure Obama won and by illegal immigrants who are here to wreak havoc, not just better their lives. It’s a paranoid fantasy but it’s very much alive.

The fact that nobody’s uncovered widespread fraud, especially any that an ID would have prevented, is beside the point. The GOP has been screaming about stolen elections for a decade now and, by staying on message, they’ve convinced most people that Voter ID is a good idea. For the Trump wing of the party it’s a driving issue, another way to stick it the blacks and Hispanics who are such a threat to real Americans.

The problem with voter ID in a state like North Carolina is that the legacy of Jim Crow is still here. We have a lot of older people, especially rural African-Americans, who weren’t born in hospitals and have difficulty coming up with the requirements for an ID. The shame of this legislation is that people who were denied access to the polls because of Jim Crow laws before the Voting Rights Act of 1965, will be denied access again at the end of their lives.

Unfortunately, progressives will lose this battle at the polls. They won’t undo a decade of the voter fraud disinformation campaign and a loud opposition campaign will likely do more to drive out the Republican base than it does the Democratic base. The best Democrats can hope for is to shape what the eventual law looks like. They should focus on winning the election first and fixing what they can when they have power. Right now, they have none.


  1. Randell Hersom


  2. Jen Jones

    Isn’t apathy just as much a part of the legacy of Jim Crow as antipathy?

  3. Anonagain

    To all of you who say that Voter ID is “no big deal,” let me share a story. My grandmother, who died in 2012 at age 92, was one of those women who never learned how to drive and never had a driver’s license. She was born at home in 1920, and I’m not sure that she ever had a birth certificate either. There are still a LOT of people who were born in rural areas in the 1930s and 40s who are still around today, and were NOT born in hospitals. The only record of their birth might have been an entry in the family Bible. IF we are going to insist on Voter ID, then people who were born before the Voting Rights Act in 1965 need to be exempt from that law. It is not easy for them to even get an ID in many cases. Also, another idea I’ve heard is that if someone doesn’t have an ID, they should be allowed to get one right there at their polling place. If we’re going to insist on Voter IDs, then they should be easy to get, not hard.

  4. TY Thompson

    This entire matter could be easily retired if there were bi-partisan agreement as to how to ensure that only legal, lawful voters enter the voting booth. If this amendment passes, it reflects that the public has serious concerns about election integrity. Dems need to not cede the issue to the Reps, respect the public’s concern and offer solutions. One option is “reverse photo ID”, the voter need not present ID but their photo should already be on the voter register sheets at the polling sites so that workers can readily match it with the voter’s face when they arrive to vote. If the DMV can register voters, they can surely also provide voter photos to the BOE.

    • chaboard

      But that would still require everyone registering with a photo at DMV – which is the problematic, disenfranchising step.

  5. Ebrun

    NC Republicans propose Voter ID law, NC Democrats strongly oppose.

    President Trump calls the MS-13 gang ‘animals’, Nancy Pelosi demurs and defends their “humanity.”

    Rudy Giuliani suggests Stormy Daniels’ former occupation is unseemly, Democrats claim she’s just another hard-working working girl (no pun indented).

    Hamas-inspired Palestinians attack Israel’s border defenses and the Israelis respond with force. Democrats blast Israel’s response.

    All this and more of the progressives’ agenda will surely win the political loyalty of the average middle class American voter. Keep ’em coming, you’re on the right track! LOL

    • Avram Friedman

      “Moderate” Democrats respond to Republican shift to the right by shifting to the right, thinking that’s the way to win more elections.

      Results: Lost the Presidency; lost both Houses of Congress; lost majority of state legislatures, lost most Governorships, lost the Supreme Court.

      Keep doing the same thing. Maybe it will turn our differently this time.

  6. Doug Berger

    Thomas Mills is correct. This fall, we must win red gerrymandered districts in order to gain enough seats so that Governor Cooper’s veto is sustainable. Avram’s Friedman’s statement that Mill’s position “is such nonsense” and “this “conventional wisdom” (is) born out of ignorance” is itself an ignorant statement. I live in both a House and Senate district that are red and must be won if we are going to meet our objective in being able to maintain and win enough seats to stop the super majority. If we follow ideologues like Avram Friedman, our two legislative candidates will certainly lose. I recognize that many progressives want to point to the outcome in Virginia last year as a model for what can occur in North Carolina this year. That comparison is without merit. In Virginia , Democrats took back seats held by Republicans in districts where Hilary Clinton got more votes than Donald Trump. There are virtually no legislative districts current held in North Carolina by Republicans that Hilary Clinton won in 2016. Follow ideologues like Friedman and we lose. Furthermore, Friedman’s suggestion that Thomas Mills is a corporate Democrat is absolutely idiotic.

    • Avram Friedman

      The ideology of “moderate” Democrats for the past two decades has been to act like Republicans and move to the right. This strategy has resulted in losing Congress, the Presidency, most state legislatures and most governorships. Republicans, when given the choice between a real Republican and a Democrat pretending to be Republican-light, will choose the real Republican every time. But, even worse, the “moderate” Democrat will not excite the Democratic base and many will stay home. That’s the political reality. If Democrats want to start winning again they have to learn to fight for issues that are important to their base and to independent voters. Specifically advising Democrats NOT to stand up and fight against an obviously unjust and discriminatory proposed Constitutional Amendment is unconscionable. And it’s the same mentality that has led to the downfall of the Democratic Party nationally from what used to be the party of the people, the party of Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy and Johnson. Standing up for basic human rights is not radical. Standing by silently while hundreds of thousands of the poor, minorities, the elderly, students and women are disenfranchised from voting is shameful, ignorant and makes no political sense. It’s mostly Democratic voters who are being disenfranchised. It’s worth fighting for and doing so could be the galvanizing force that could get Democratic voters to the polls in this non-Presidential election year, something they are notorious for not doing.

      • chaboard

        As a factual matter the idea that the Democratic party has ‘move[d] to the right’ over the last couple decades is just….ludicrous. Not only is that precisely the period during which elected ‘blue dog’ Democrats have almost completely disappeared from the face of the earth (there are no Zell Miller”s or Heath Shuler’s around these days – they were a significant power base then)….it’s also a period in which the movement has been to the left on nearly every major issue. Think health care reform, gay rights, gun control, etc, etc – pretty much every issue you can name. Keep in mind that ‘a couple decades ago’ – the starting point for this supposed rightward move – was when Third Way Dems were at their strongest and the Dem establishment was on board for things like welfare reform. The idea that we as a party have moved rightward since then is just….absurd.

        No, the movement over ‘the past two decades’ has clearly and undeniably been to the left. Strongly so.

        That said though, the idea that NOT defending the rights and interests of our base is a winning strategy during a midterm that will be decided BY base turnout is ALSO…..silly.

        This WILL drive rightwing turnout, regardless of what we do. Our task is to make it drive ours, too….

        • Avram Friedman

          As a factual matter it’s clear that the Democratic Party moved to the right with Bill Clinton’s administration and his “welfare reform,” draconian mandatory sentencing and “three strikes” policies that resulted in the incarceration of thousands of black and brown people, banking reform that reversed the safeguards of the Glass-Steagal Act and on and on and on. Most of the Party has now, since 2016, begun moving back to the center thanks to Bernie Sanders and his supporters who have re-awakened the social activism for which the Democratic Party once stood.

          Regardless, we agree on your last sentence. It makes no sense to stand by idly and watch the Republicans rally their base for this disgraceful Constitutional Amendment. Opposition to it needs to become a rallying cry for Democrats everywhere in North Carolina and nationwide.

          • Charles F Board

            If the rightward movement you refer to is the Clinton triangulation then your timeline is way off….that happened MORE than two decades ago (two decades takes us back to 1998 and Monica-gate – at which point all the major policy/ideological moves for Clinton were long over).

            And that’s what I was objecting to – you specifically said ‘past two decades’ and the movement over that period has been steadily and substantively leftward. We’re way to the left of where we were in 1998 (and no, it didn’t start with Sanders – it was well under way by 2006 when we took Lieberman out in a primary).

            I’ll also note in passing that the minor rightward movement under Clinton was a GOOD Thing in that it was absolutely *necessary* to end a run of the GOP winning 5 out of 6 Presidential elections dating back 25 years. I’ll note in passing that the party back in the glory days you referred to – FDR, TRuman, LGJ, etc – had a LOT more actual conservatives and racists than it does today. Actual *segregatonists* wielded massive power in the party.

            NONE of this is simple one dimensional movement and ALL of it has to be evaluated in the context of the times.

            But the bottom line is that the Democratic party has been moving steadily (if incrementally) left for a couple of decades. We progressives have been ascendant for a long time.

            But like you said at least we agree on the need to loudly fight for our base.

  7. Jafo64

    It’s also worth noting that to aquire a birth certificate all one needs is a computer and the internet. Or know someone with those two things.
    Anyone can purchase a Birth certificate for their living parent or adult child. Heck I just did it from several states away.
    All this article and the Left-wingers are about is doing Everything and Anything to keep a percentage of their voters from leaving the plantation by thinking freely, and individually.

  8. Jafo64

    Left wingers always pontificate on how educated and intelligent they are over conservatives. If that is correct, how would the left wing voting block be prevented from voting?
    And how typical Left-wingers resort to the “Racism” label by insinuating that voter ID laws are a result of Obama’s election. The first Voter ID law was passed in 2005. If you effectively use google you’ll discover the sitting president at that time was white, Gasp!
    It’s also worth noting that there are currently 33 states with voter ID.
    So, it’s time to be a part of the long arc of history, join the majority, and accept that an ID that is used daily for everything won’t hinder anyone.

  9. Jake

    Like the anti-gay marriage discrimination amendments of years past, this is designed to drive turnout among certain voters, and will likely pass. It took the courts to end those years later.

    Yet we still have to fight it on moral grounds and in the public sphere even as we work hard to elect officials who will stand against discrimination. The courts, in rejecting the last version of voting restriction laws our General Assembly set up, said those laws targeted African-American voters “with almost surgical precision.”

    Racist voting laws are one of the major blights in our country’s history. It’s unconscionable not to fight their blatant return. Whether we can win the short term political battle is immaterial in the decision on whether or not to state clearly and forcefully that bringing back Jim Crow-style voting laws is not okay.

  10. Joshua Berkov

    I tend to disagree with Thomas on this one. I understand why he believe what he believes. But Republicans are already going to try to fire up their base using this wedge issue. So we might as well fire up our base against it. We can run an effective ad campaign that highlights individuals of all colors who will no longer be able to vote as a result of the proposed amendment. We have to make the issue relatable to everyone, to highlight individuals that could just as easily be a part of someone’s family…someone that who they know and love. We have to win people’s hearts on this one.

    • avram Friedman

      Exactly so, Joshua. We have to stop cowering in fear and understand that the majority of people are reasonable when confronted with valid arguments. It’s time to fight back. We’re in the right on this issue and we can’t allow ourselves to be intimidated by the thugs in power. If we only fight when it appears easy, we’ll never make significant gains on matters of social justice. It’s easy to shrug off the photo ID law when you’re part of the privileged white-male majority who won’t have a problem voting. But, we owe it to the hundreds of thousands who will be disenfranchised to fight for their rights as well. If this seems altruistic, then look at the practical side of it. The Democratic Party needs every one of those votes to win back the General Assembly. If this wasn’t a fact, why do you think the Republicans are trying so desperately to ram it through?

  11. Rick Gunter

    Democrats should work to regain legislative control no matter how long it takes, then repeal this damn law on voter ID. The Vichy Republicans eventually will get theirs. The demographics are not on their side. Neither is history. Nor is sanity. I hope I live long enough to see them totally undone in places like North Carolina and in my adopted state of Virginia.

  12. Roy Smith Jr

    The Resistance will eventually win. Let the Haters & Racist do as they will.

  13. Abe Jones

    I agree with Tom. He’s a politically savvy guy who grew up in N.C.
    like many of us. This is not the political”hill” to was any “lives” of
    our precious political capital. We have other fish to fry.

  14. Avram Friedman

    I really don’t like to continue being so consistently critical of “mainstream, corporate Democrats.” But, Thomas, your advice represents the quintessential attitude of defeatism typically broadcast by the status-quo establishment.

    From the 2016 election arguments against single-payer healthcare, a $15 minimum living wage, meaningful criminal justice reform and virtually all of the Progressive agenda including the so-called inviability of a self-described “Democratic Socialist,” all the way to this issue of advising people not to fight against an unconstitutional Constitutional Amendment to force a voting-suppressive Voter ID law down our throats, yours is an attitude that, at its roots, discourages participation in the political process by lending credence to the concept that people are ultimately powerless.

    This is such nonsense. This is “conventional wisdom” born out of ignorance and a refusal to acknowledge the fact that all social change, all human rights gains in the history of America and the world have been won by people who fight for what is right, almost always against great odds.

    If you’re reading this, don’t listen to Thomas’ words of discouragement. Fight this Amendment tooth and nail, because fighting it is the right thing to do. Hundreds of thousands of voters will be disenfranchised by a photo ID law in North Carolina, ensuring the perpetuation of the status quo in Raleigh and in our representation in Washington DC.

  15. Vicki Boyer

    Speaker Moore is asking the voters of North Carolina to buy a pig in a poke by leaving specific ID requirements out of this proposed amendment. He wants, and you are correct, will probably get, a blank check that he can fill in any way he wants. He could let you vote one year and decline your particular ID the next. No one is immune.

    North Carolina voters should always vote no on giving approval before they know exactly what they are approving.

  16. chaboard

    Not really understanding how eliminating the supermajority in January prevents them from passing an abominable implementation in December. Care to elaborate?

    Regardless I don’t think anything short of all-out war against the amendment – regardless of the chances of success – is an option. We can’t expect the black base of the party to turnout like we need them toif we arejust rolling over for their eventual disenfranchisement. Some things must be fought for.

  17. Lee Mortimer

    Tom is probably correct that a voter ID amendment will pass fairly easily. But that shouldn’t stop opponents from pointing out its unfairness and that its real intention is voter suppression. And an amendment is no different from a statute — it can and should be challenged legally, just as the legislature’s last voter ID law was thrown out by the court. Remember Amendment One — it passed easily but was ultimately consigned by the courts to the dustbin of history.

  18. Norma Munn

    Your analysis may be correct and the advice is practical. However, the intent behind this proposed amendment, and the falsehoods used to create the environment for it, should be sufficient to make every self respecting voter reject it.

    Real problems in our state’s elections, such as preventing meddling by Russia, are being ignored. NC is a swing state and a likely target, but the GOP leadership and members in Raleigh either do not care, or do not believe it can really happen. Stupid and naive is a deadly combination for any line of work, but especially for those we elect to govern us. Add deliberate racism to the mix, and the results should make everyone deeply ashamed. It won’t. Genteel racism is as much a part of the South as “yall”or “mam” and just as sacred. One can cover up a multitude of sins with politeness.

    I would close with “have a blessed day” but out of respect for those who truly mean that comment, just ignore this tirade. Children being taken from parents seeking asylum at our border with Mexico (a fully legal act under our laws) has left me deeply ashamed and more angry than I have ever been at my government — all of it.

    • Jafo64

      Empathy is no way to vote or run a country.
      Thank goodness you’re not in charge

  19. Kelly

    The same people who wrote the monster voting ID law and who suppressed minority votes with “surgical precision” will call a special session and write a new voter ID law after this passes on the ballot. There will be no shaping opportunity for the democrats. Even if democrats can remove the supermajority, a supermajority will pass a terrible law in December before the new legislature convenes in January. They can do this because they have a supermajority.

    It is dangerous to tell people to accept this without also explaining how this will all happen. Once they pass a second monster voter ID law in December, the new legislature will not repeal it unless it has a majority of democrats in each chamber. Then it will be more years of fights and litigation further draining resources while we desperately need to actually be solving problems.

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