Voting is a Right, not a Privilege: Let’s Keep it that Way
If I could have my way, every citizen would vote in every election. Although that may never happen, I still believe that we should make it as easy as possible for people to register and vote. That’s why I joined three other Democratic colleagues last week to introduce the Let North Carolina Vote Act.
The Let North Carolina Vote Act lays out what Democrats would do to expand voting access if we had a majority of seats in the General Assembly. And truthfully, I believe that the ideas in our bill are things that both political parties should want. The bill expands voting access by making it easier to vote and minimizes the harmful, voter suppressing effects of a photo ID requirement.
Normally, no bill would be introduced in December because the General Assembly should be out of session. But our bill is especially timely because Republicans are currently pushing through a law to implement requirements for a photo ID to vote, in accordance with a constitutional amendment that was passed in November.
No matter what you think about the merits of requiring a photo ID to vote, it is clear that this requirement will not increase voting participation. Inevitably, some people will not be able to produce a valid form of ID and others will stay home altogether just because they don’t have an ID and don’t realize that they could still cast a provisional ballot.
It is important for Democrats to put forward a proactive agenda, although we are still in the minority. The Let North Carolina Vote Act is a clear contrast to the current GOP plans, even though we know that Republican leadership will never let us debate our bill. The Let North Carolina Vote Act includes these specific proposals:
- A system for universal voter registration that allows for online voter registration. Anyone who registers with a state agency for any purpose would also be automatically registered to vote. This would include obtaining a drivers’ license, applying for public assistance, signing up for unemployment, as well as registration at public community colleges and universities. If you don’t register in one of those ways, you’ll be able to simply go to the Board of Elections website and do it there, just as residents of 38 other states already can.
- North Carolina would join 15 other states in allowing voters to register on Election Day. Currently, same day registration is only available during the early voting period.
- Having local boards of election provide voters with a free photo ID upon request. Combined with same-day registration, this means that someone could show up on the day of the election, register to vote, and get their Photo ID to comply with the new constitutional provision.The bill complies with the photo ID constitutional amendment, but reduces the burden of doing so.
- Emphasizing confirming a voter’s identity by allowing even expired ID cards to be used. Our proposal also allows a broader range of ID cards to be used than the GOP proposal.
- Finally, extending the early voting period, gives North Carolinians even more options for voting.
I believe that our government should be of the people, by the people and for the people. That requires civic participation. Voting is not the only way to participate, but it is one that is fundamental to democracy. I believe that we need to make every effort to help people fulfill that fundamental duty. It’s time for North Carolina to start making voting easier and not harder.
Graig Meyer is the State Representative for House District 50. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared in the News of Orange County.